Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Friends


I hope these two cousins are always close friends...

Steel came home from school the other day and told me over snack that one of her friends calls his penis, "Little Earnest."  I live for little tidbits of information like that.  They really pep up the hour a day I devote to lunchbox preparation and subsequent dismantling.  I heard about Little Earnest a day before a friend of mine told me she had a mysterious smudge on her glasses that turned out to be an imprint of her husband's testicle.   Who gives oral sex with glasses on?  Maybe he's into that whole "slut librarian" thing.  I also have a friend whose husband has a spreadsheet upon which he inputs: his weight (daily) when they have sex (tri-weekly), when they argue (who knows?) and much more.  I have a hard time keeping track of my business expenses.  His rigor is incredible to me.


Is it appropriate that I know about these things and think about them?  I'm grappling with the whole concept of appropriate these days.  People have been talking about filters on computers and limiting kids' access to things.  I hadn't really given it much thought because my kids are so little, but I'm starting.  I was listening to my meathead morning radio show last week.  They were interviewing a porn star.  Curious, I googled her name.  HOLY SHIT!  I thought you had to pay to see that kind of thing or you had to know someone with a password.  


I let the kids listen to pop music when I'm in a good mood in the car.  We all sing along feigning that we know the lyrics.  There is something so inappropriate and yet so cute about Toby singing that she's got, "all the right junk in all the right places"  because she's "all about that bass."  Alone one day I listened to the actual lyrics of one of our staple sing-alongs: 



  • Uh-uh uh-uh uh-uh
    I eat my dinner in my bathtub
    Then I go to sex clubs
    Watching freaky people getting it on
    It doesn't make me nervous
    If anything I'm restless
    Yeah I've been around and I've seen it all
  • I get home, I got the munchies
    Binge on all my Twinkies
    Throw up in the tub, then I go to sleep
    And I drank up all my money
    Tasted kind of lonely
  • You're gone and I got to stay high
    All the time to keep you off my mind, ooh ooh
    High all the time to keep you off my mind, ooh ooh
    Spend my days locked in a haze
    Trying to forget you babe, I fall back down
    Gotta stay high all my life to forget I'm missing you
  • Pick up daddies at the playground
    How I spend my day time
    Loosen up the frown, make them feel alive
    I make it fast and greasy
    I know my way too easy
  • You're gone and I got to stay high
    All the time to keep you off my mind, ooh ooh
    High all the time to keep you off my mind, ooh ooh
    Spend my days locked in a haze,
    Tryin' to forget you babe, I fall back down
    Got to stay high all my life to forget I'm missing you
  • Staying in my play pretend
    Where the fun ain't got no end
    Oh, can't go home alone again
    Need someone to numb the pain
    Oh, staying in my play pretend
    Where the fun ain't got no end
    Oh oh can't go home alone again
    Need someone to numb the pain
  • You're gone and I got to stay high
    All the time to keep you off my mind, ooh ooh
    High all the time to keep you off my mind, ooh ooh
    Spend my days locked in a haze
    Tryin' to forget you babe, I fall back down
    Got to stay high all my life to forget I'm missing you

    Let me know where to pick up my Parent-of-the-year award.


    I also made some purchase recently that ended in an offer for a year of Cosmopolitan magazine for $2.50.  I took it.  The girls love the perfume sample inserts, and it might be a nice diversion for me.  Steel asked me the other day, "Mom, what's a man bush?"  God only knows what Jack Peter has gleaned; 68 pages of Cosmo was on his Tuesday night reading log last week.


    man bush expert...
    Knowing and sharing intimate details about life is the basis for most of my friendships, and they are so important to me.  I tend to make friends easily and keep them for the rest of my life.  Periodic Facebook comments aside, I've completely lost touch with the woman I considered one of my best friends on Earth.  This loss and my inability to have a 4th child were really difficult for about 3 years of my normally bordering-on-blissful life.  There were hints that the demise of our friendship was imminent, but I didn’t notice them at the time.  In between my second and third kids, I had a brutal miscarriage.  We had family from Canada visiting.  All of us were returning from a destination wedding at one of those everything-included resorts in Punta Cana.  I was only 9 weeks pregnant, so no one could tell, but I could not partake in the revelry.  Instead of the nonchalant drunken person I might have been, I was a nauseous, highly-critical-of-the-implications-of-the-all-you-can-eat-buffets, self-righteous cunta cana.  Back in Philly in my white cotton resort-wear ensemble, I felt a gush.  In the bathroom, it looked like someone had dumped 2 tablespoons of Rose onto the cotton panel of my knickers.  

    The ensuing morning, amidst apologies to the visiting cousins we stepped over the human poop on the outside stoop of our hip urban loft in the hood and made the trip to the ER.  After a few hours of ER protocol, I was ushered into an ultrasound room, told to spread my legs and given an enormous phallic wand to shove into my vagina.  An apologetic technician confirmed that she saw no heartbeat in the fetus.  I was given the option to schedule a DNC.  A DNC stands for dilation and curettage.  It is a surgical procedure that involves scraping and vacuuming part of the lining of the uterus and whatever dead fetus might be camping out there.  Or I could “let it pass.”  The idea of a gynecologist with a hoover was distressing, and I am a  “my body knows what to do” kind of hippy, so I went for the “let it pass” option.  I was told I “might go through some maxi pads.”  I assured them I could handle it.


    Bear in mind I’d already had two natural childbirths.  I spent the next 2 days in the hardest labor I’d ever experienced.  I bled through every dark piece of linen we owned while trying to lie in my bed.  I sat on the toilet listening to a cracked-out pimp and whore argue on the street from 2-4 am.  I was passing golf balls of gory muck into the toilet.  At one point I lay naked on the shower floor screaming at my husband to get himself and my 2 toddlers out of my sight.  Still unable to face work, on the 3rd day, I felt OK enough to sit on my couch in my probably-stolen, white, terry cloth, hotel bathrobe and call my friend.

    Friend: “Hi Friendy!”
    Me:  “I’ve just had a miscarriage”
    Friend: “Oh, Friendina that’s awful!”
    Me:  “I’m OK.”
    Friend:  “I was just at Sundance; I have to review a crappy film.  I spent 45 minutes finding parking.  I need to take a nap; I’ll call you tomorrow?!”

    She didn’t call.  I did get an e-mail a few days later.  “Friendy, I know you’ve had a miscarriage and everything, but aren’t you remotely interested in hearing that I’ve started dating Rob?”  Rob used to date my narcoleptic roommate Karin, but he cheated on her with one of her best friends.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t forgive Friend's wanting to talk about her own life during my disaster.  The generous part of me assumes she wanted to cheer me up with her funny stories of a new relationship with the blond, 5’5,” half-Japanese, Hawaiian, son-of-a-dentist we both loved.  We didn’t speak much after that.

    Friendy loved to tell the story of discovering me.  She lived in an all-freshman dorm at Amherst.  I’d opted for a mixed dorm, which meant I would go to the freshman parties in the all-freshman dorms not knowing anyone.  Having spent the previous 3 years in boarding school, I was not giddy from the freedom of a no-parents world.  I was an experienced boarder.  My Indian print tapestries were faded as were my jeans and my bomber jacket.  I smoked with authority and already had the faux blasé attitude the rest of the freshman acquired in the next month or two.  Friendy claims she spotted me through the keyhole of her single room, and she vowed to herself that we would be friends.  I was flattered by her attention and wowed by her audacity to choose a single room for her freshman year.  

    My friend was irreverent, brilliant and probably bi-polar.  One of the first things she made clear to me was that she had never stepped foot into The Gap.  I hadn't ever even questioned going or not going into the Gap.  I brought her home within weeks of our meeting.  For some reason, my mother and I had to leave a note: “Come on in and make yourself at home!  We’ll be back in 15 minutes.”  I come from a small fishing town turned BMW town.  I have never seen keys to my house, and my mother leaves the car keys inside each car in the driveway.  They hang on a vacuum-mounted utility hook stuck to the dashboard, the ones you usually see in the shower. 

    Mom and I walked into the kitchen, about to apologize for not being home to greet her.  Friend was sitting at the kitchen table reading the New Yorker and finishing off a slice of apple pie.  In my mother, Susie Kinder’s parlance, “Make yourself at home!” does not translate into “Help yourself to a piece of uncut apple pie.”  Friend raved enough about the pie to quell an onslaught of Susie Kinder ire.  My father was also home making a rare appearance.  My parents’ 30-year marriage was in the last third of their 15-year divorce.  When I read that sentence I’m reminded of my dad’s musing to my 8-year-old brother as they were motoring on the boat out of the channel, “Yo-ah muthah is a cunt-and-a-half three quahtahs of the time…”  My poor brother was quiet, trying to do the math in his head.  Dad is also irreverent and brilliant.  Mom, Dad, friend and I had lobsters that night and a lot of wine.  Friend was regaling us with stories of her demented and bigoted grandmother who would telephone at all hours.  Without pause after the "hello" that starts any phone conversation, her granny would launch into a tirade, “PEBBLE BEACH!  THE JAPS!  THEY’VE BOUGHT PEBBLE BEACH!”  Our night came to a crescendo with my father’s bellowing, in his thick New England accent, “Tell yo-ah grandmuthah HER TWAT SMELLS and to FUCK OFF!”  

    Were there to be a movie of my life, a cinematic introduction of Peter Kinder would portray him in his Subaru Outback driving 20 miles under the speed limit on a 2-lane highway in New Hampshire listening to the Powder Milk Biscuit Song on Prairie Home Companion.  The volume is on “high," his lanky arms are flailing to the beat as angry motorists roar by giving him the finger.  Friend's world was similar in a socio-economic way, but BOTH of her parents had Masters degrees.  (My mom got hers after the divorce.)  Her mom was a feminist, so while Susie was whipping up amazing apple pies and peculiar salads involving a leaf of iceberg lettuce, a canned pineapple ring, an ice cream scoop of cottage cheese with a Maraschino cherry on top,  Judy, friend's mom, would neither clean nor cook.  


    In general, all of our discourse was slightly pretentious.  Professors were excoriated for bad lectures.  Upbeat sorority-type girls were mocked.  The one with a large forehead was called “Fivehead” and so on.  The parade of female Freshmen who traipsed in and out of our slutty male roommate’s room were given unsolicited advice or friend would say something like, “He’s with number 22; you’re number 23.  You can come when we call your number.”  Friend and Chris, the male slut, had massive battles over his noisy and late hours.  He’d respond with some remark about her inappropriate treatment of feminine hygiene products in the shared bathroom.  She’d scream, “It’s not my fault that Niagra Falls in blood pours out of my snatch every 28 days!”  I was always appalled and charmed by her candor.

    Friend was also very sweet.  She’d lovingly tease me for my taste in men.  If I’d gone out and made a bad decision with some oafish frat boy on Saturday night, she’d come into my darkened dorm room on Sunday afternoon and rub my aching head while reading one of her short stories aloud to me.  My favorite was the one about the guy who stayed home while his wife and the kids went to his in laws for a summer holiday.  He was in charge of taking care of the family Corgi.  He let the dog out, and it ran into the street and got hit by a car.  Knowing his marriage hinged on the successful completion of taking care of the dog during the vacation, he went out and got an identical Corgi instead of owning up to the mistake.  It's true.  All Corgis have that coloring and that sweet, slightly maniacal smile.

    Friend loved all types of music and would pop a tape into the stereo of Bunny, my blue Volvo, and blast it telling me that the front seat of Bunny was her favorite place on Earth.  It would be rap or some obscure country singer, although I distinctly remember motoring up and down the hills of San Francisco listening to Carly Simon’s “Nobody does it better” 3 times in a row.  Without her musical guidance, I’ve been lost.  The expansion of my iTunes library came to an abrupt halt in 2008. 

    We did spend a fair bit of time in the car.  Both of us made the poor decision to spend the summer before our senior year in California with our respective boyfriends.  She was in LA with her Korean boyfriend and his non-English speaking family.  I was outside of San Francisco with my Jewish boyfriend and his family who didn’t like my not being Jewish.  Perhaps they didn’t like more than that about me; they treated me like a loose harlot and a brief dalliance for their over-indulged son.  I’ll never forget sitting down with Nikki, Adam’s mom, for a “talk.”  She explained that California was in drought and could Adam and I please shower together to conserve water?  Faintly in the background, I could hear the rhythmic beat of their 20 synchronized sprinklers and the truck of the pool guy pulling up as I nodded my assent.  I'm pretty sure Adam is now gay.  Perhaps the non-Jewish harlot would be looking a little better about now.

    Friend’s summer with Ko’s Korean family was equally unpleasant.  The jubilation she and I had driving east across the Bay Bridge away from California at sunset was orgasmic.  We spent the next week on the “cross-country diet” eating only frozen yogurt and popcorn.  We’d stopped once at a cheap motel to watch Twin Peaks, but otherwise she'd come up with a free option where we'd probably outstay our welcome by drinking all their beer in the bathtub together.  My brash friend had a fragility to her.  She was terrified of thunderstorms, concussions and bodily harm, in general.  She went hysterical in the car in a storm in Ohio.  She slipped and hit her head when a group of us were hanging out on the Hudson River in upstate New York and was convinced she’d had a concussion.  The rest of us took turns making sure she was alive throughout the night.  This nursing schedule reigned in our alcohol consumption so we treated the incident like an imposed de-tox/spa.  

    The most memorable moment of Friend’s trepidation was during a mild Standard poodle mauling.  We were running around Smith’s Point in Manchester-by-the-Sea.  The houses on Smith’s Point all look like college fraternity houses, and they are, for the most part, summer homes.  3 Standard Poodles bounded out of their long driveway, and one of them knocked friend down with his oddly cylindrical legs.  I successfully fended off the affections of the other two while wondering whether friend was going to completely lose her mind and threaten a massive lawsuit through her tears.  A grey-haired woman came out in her espadrilles, madras pants and coordinating pink top and calmly said to friend with an extreme New England lock-jaw, “Don’t worry, they’re completely benign!”  From the ground, Friend stopped screaming and stared at the woman incredulously.  She looked at me and burst out laughing as she said to the woman,  “I suppose you’re now going to ask me for some Grey Poupon?”

    For a brief moment we both lived in San Francisco after college.  She was a working in a woman-owned sex club and writing about her experiences.  I was also working for a company run by women doing, “lingerie shows” in bars.  We were pretending that our empowered selves were allowed to do sex work because we were inverting the genre in some way.  Mine was far tamer than hers.  I kept some clothes on.  I remember visiting the peep show with Colin where she was “performing.”   We showed our ID’s to the bouncer, exchanged our dollars for quarters and the two of us squished into a tiny booth.  The walls were black, and there was a Kleenex box mounted on the wall.  We looked at it, then at each other and shrieked like little girls.  We deposited our quarters, and the shutter went up to reveal a room full of 6 naked women.  The lighting was weird, so we kept having to add quarters to keep the shutter up long enough to locate Friend among the gaggle.  She was lackadaisically dancing while looking at herself in the mirror and checking her watch.  It was perfect.  Not much happened at that job.  I remember a guy gave her a $20 to pull a tampon out in front of him.  That was seedy, but nothing more horrifying happened.

    She liked work she could do from home while she wrote, so phone sex was an obvious choice.  The operator would tell her she was a red-headed aerobics instructor and click her over to the horny caller.  My favorite of the phone sex stories was when she, the red-headed aerobics instructor, regaled her caller with a long, fabricated tale of losing her virginity in a pick-up truck.  Friend was great at keeping them on the line while the clock was ticking.  She then asked him to tell her about his virginity story.  He had a thick southern accent.  He’d gone to FSU for a football weekend.  There were a bunch of them staying in this girl’s apartment.  He was sleeping on the floor of her bedroom.  The next thing he knew she was riding on top of him shouting, “GO GATORS!” repeatedly at the top of her lungs.  I can’t help it.  Every time I meet someone who tells me he/she is from Northern Florida, I shout “Go Gators!” in a thick southern accent just to give myself a little chuckle.

    I was riding my bike to Friend’s apartment one night late.  She lived at the top of a hill in the Western Addition.  I’d seen a little girl shot in the head by a ricochet bullet on one of my rides through her neighborhood, so I was always on edge.  3 kids started chasing me on bikes 2 blocks from friend’s apartment.  They were all wearing hockey masks.  It was one of the most terrifying few minutes of my life.  Luckily I was in better shape or my more-expensive bike performed better.  I was able to get to Friend’s door and ring the bell without incident.  I was breathless and terrified when she answered the door.  She handed me the phone and said with her hand over the receiver, “You’re a brunette with BIG TITS.  Can you just take this one?  I’m having a fight with my roommate!” as she hurried up the cat-pee-smelling stairs.

    Eventually friend left for New York with a resume that had “fluent in fake Korean” on the bottom of it.  Her fake Korean IS amazing.  We still called and e-mailed regularly, and she’d come visit.  I was living a more bohemian life than she.  My Japanese roommate, Hiroko, had a pile of tree branches in the corner of the kitchen.  To Friend’s query Hiroko responded, “I’m making a nest.”  Friend immediately called Colin and said, “The Frau is living with someone who is making a fucking nest in their apartment.  I think she needs an intervention.”  When roommate #2 walked in with her thick English accent, Friend took one look from the the bi-racial Sharon, to the Japanese Hiroko to me and said, “What is this?  The United colors of fucking Benneton???”  During that same visit I was lying on my bed discussing the evening’s plans on the phone.  Friend was scrutinizing the contents of my bedroom.  She spent a lot of time with a new bag I’d bought.  The phone conversation was lasting too long for her taste, so she handed me a note scrawled on the back of one of my "daily Sagittarius horoscope" calendar pages.  It read, “Dear Friendy, I know we’ve been friends for a long time, and I’ve really valued that friendship.  Sadly it must now come to an end.  How the fuck could you have bought a bag that cute for yourself and not gotten me one?”

    Towards the end, at the same time I was dating a Palestinian guy named Tarek, she was dating a half-Lebanese guy named Mike.  Friend could deal with Tarek in the beginning.  She was interested in his family’s refugee camp existence.  She called him “Arab Classic;” Mike was “Arab Light.”  Friend ended up marrying “Arab Light.”  I made a toast at the rehearsal dinner joking about the Arab Classic and Light distinction.  I don’t think it went over too well.  Perhaps it offended her Lebanese father-in-law.  I’m not sure.  I’ll never forget looking down at Mike’s mom’s feet at the wedding.  She was wearing black stockings with sandals.  The black around her toes made it look like she had Chimpanzee feet.  Perhaps her wedding was the beginning of the end.  She divorced Mike, and Tarek and I broke up; I’ve seen her twice since then.

    When I moved to Philadelphia, I started to date my, now husband, 2 days after I’d arrived.  2 weeks after that, everyone in his life was coming to surprise him for his 40th birthday.  I was in charge of keeping him away from certain bars and restaurants where people were congregating the morning and afternoon before his party.  Friend slept with us.  Before innocently nodding off, she told him he was getting a much-sought-after “Friendina/Friend sandwich.”  The day of the big party, I had finally succumbed to a painful urinary tract infection and went to the Emergency Room for antibiotics.  It took forever, and the party had long since started.  I was on a gurney waiting for the doctor and talking to my mom on a cell phone.  She was horrified, “Tim’s family and friends are all at a bar, and FRIEND is there in your stead?  Get the HELL over there!”

    I grabbed the prescription and arrived at Tim’s surprise party to find Friend regaling Tim’s somewhat-conservative friend, Howard, with the tale of her most recent social misstep. Apparently a gay friend told her she’d offended him.  She listed her many PC Police offences of the evening which were every shocking bigoted epithet one could imagine.   Of course, “Fucking Jew” was on the list, and Howard happens to be Jewish. The punch line was that the gay friend was upset because she’d called someone a “Cocksucker.”  I walked in on the conversation as friend was drunkenly shouting at Howard, “I am a cock sucker!  Aren’t we all?” 

    Friends are important to all of us. Because her day care is still in our old hood, Toby doesn't have any friends in this neighborhood, and she needs some because I can't bear commuting back to Northern Liberties on the weekends.  She told me after tennis that a girl in her class was, "her new best friend."  When I said, "What's her name?"  Toby responded nonchalantly, "I don't know!"  I asked the woman with the girl what the girl's name was and where she lived.  It turned out that Ava lived with her 2 moms (neither present) and little brother A BLOCK AWAY FROM US.  That next tennis class I was on a mission to meet one or both of those moms.  We were late, so I didn't get to see who Ava came in with.  I found myself stalking around the viewing box above the courts looking for a lesbian.  No one jumped out at me, so I resorted to a superior method of detective work noting the Land's End monogrammed lunch box that said "AVA" next to a not-particularly-homo-or-heterosexual-looking woman. 



    Chesley and Sherri are now our friends, and Ava and Toby are high-drama BFF's.  It's a running joke that everything at Ava's house is better.  Toby goes over and they make cookies, and do crafts. Chesley sent me a text and an image from the supermarket where they were shopping for peppermints to crush and put on their chocolate-dipped pretzels.  "Santa was at Acme today!"  I wrote back, "Of course he fucking was!  Screw You!"  Even my mom has gotten sucked in.  Chesley watches football all weekend, and my mom hates the fact that we have to access to televised sports.  Chelsea and Sherri had us over for football, a delicious meal, amazing beer, and the kids got their first taste of "pigs in a blanket."  All I can say is, "Of course it's better at Avas house!!!  SHE HAS 2 MOMS!"  (no offense, dads, but let's be honest.  When was the last time you made any plans for an activity when your kid was having a friend over?)  

    Is the way Toby hams it up inappropriate?







     These days I don't hang out with friends as much as I should.  I know this because during my bike rides I have fake conversations in my head with famous people who are, of course, my friends.  I have an ongoing one with Terry Gross. We talk about my (never going to be written) book and being a potter and how writing and potting are symbiotic for me.  Brad Pitt and I talk all the time about how amazing it would be to bring Jen and Angie together in a film about 2 best friends who grow apart because one chooses the single/career route and the other chooses the family option.  Brad and I are tight because his birthday is a day after mine.  Our conversations usually end with a discussion of low-income housing and how he should buy a modular building factory that will build all of my amazing husband's 0-energy units, and the world will be a better place.  

    The funnest talks are with my dear friend Michelle:

    me: "Michelle!  I'm so GLAD you called!  I've been MEANING to have a talk with you!"
    Michelle Obama: "What's on your mind, Liz?"
    me:  "You've been going about this healthy America thing all wrong!"
    M.O. "Really?"
    me:  "I think you've been blaming the victim.  I think about being fat all the time.  Being fat is like carrying a bag of clay or even two around with you.  Fat people are so exhausted.  Telling them to exercise is just mean!  You know what makes them fat?  They are eating crap that isn't even food.  Their bodies are so desperate for nutrients that they are grabbing indiscriminately at the shit the FDA and the fucking food lobbies are putting on their shelves.  Of course they can't stop.  They are both starving and exhausted from carrying around all of that weight!  Michelle, you don't have to kowtow to those lobbying bitches anymore."  
    MO:  "You're so right, Liz!  I think we need to do away with corn subsidies for one thing, and maybe we'll model our agriculture on the urban organic farms that have supported Cuba for all of these years.  These people need real food!"
    me:  "Michelle, now you're on the right track!  I need to tell you I'm still so flattered that one of the girls at the child watch at the YMCA told me I have Michelle Obama arms!  Barak must love having his wife be the hottest first lady.  Jackie had nothing on you, girl!"
    MO:  "Liz, I don't think a comparison of the hotness of our nations first ladies is appropriate."
    me: "Oh Michelle, you're probably right!"


    May ALL of these kids remain friends...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Worksheets and Surgery



Steel refused to let me come into her bed and snuggle her after I'd done surgery on my index finger.  I was excited to show her because she'd asked about puss THAT morning.  What an educational coup!  I didn't expect her to want nothing to do with me afterwards.  That finger had been killing me for 3 days.  It was throbbing the way things do in cartoons.  It was a Halloween-costume-making injury.  The aerosol foam adhesive must've gotten under my nail and infected.  The finishing of the costumes actually helped.  Puss oozed out of the right side of the nail from the pressure of using the finger to spray paint the costumes.  After alcohol had been administered, I submerged the left side of the fingernail in a peroxide bath and punctured it with a needle.  I guess we can take surgeon off of the list of possible outcomes for Steel.  Healthcare, in general, is out of the question.  She can't bear to be around anyone who might be sick or have been sick anytime in the past year.  She's also terrified of Ebola or she pretends to be when she wants me to change the radio from NPR to pop music.

Steel does have to do something that involves moving her body and completing tasks.  I was hoping for surgeon because that seems to be the most world-changing,  smart-requiring and lucrative version of standing and completing tasks.  Pottery or cooking might work.  I have a friend who doesn't love entertaining.  She's great at it, but she was lamenting to me, "You just move seamlessly through food preparation and hostessing!"  I replied, "If I weren't chopping shit and "cleaning as I go," I'd be on the porch (if my porch weren't a death-defying half-porch because my husband has stopped working on it) drunk and smoking because my manic chopping energy wouldn't have an outlet.  Deena, you're a THINKER!  Food prep and the cleaning up afterwards is not for you!"  My dad is the same.  He was watching me make pots on my mom's deck.  After a few minutes, he asked with an incredulous squint, "DE-ah, (dear with a thick New England accent) can't you PAY someone to do that for you?"  Just recently another friend (in marketing) asked me when I could get my business to the point that I could focus entirely on marketing and pay someone to make the pots for me.


It's not that Tim stopped working on the deck so much as he started working on this enormous tree house.  He's at a stopping point with both because the cedar siding his heart desires for finishing both projects is really expensive, so we have half a deck half a tree house.  Whenever we meet people in our new neighborhood and we give our address, people respond with, "THE ONE WITH THE TREE HOUSE????"

I think Steel is smarter, deeper and more "big picture" than I am or ever was, but she shares that manic "If I enjoy doing it once, then I'll happily do it 100 times" mentality and the energy to go with it.  Moms who don't have their kids in posh Montessori-esque hippy schools but want to, focus some of their ire on worksheets.  At a public school, a teacher who has 27 kids to deal with will give the smart ones worksheets, freeing him or herself to focus on the kids that need help.  Smart kids like Jack Peter complete the worksheets as fast as possible in order to direct their attention on a book or on misbehaving.  Smart kids like Steel color in those pumpkins perfectly sit back with pride admiring their craft-maybe tweaking the stem of the pumpkin with a dash of chartreuse before asking for another worksheet.  On her birthday Steel was so elated about her day at school, I had to ask why she was in such a good mood.  "Mom! We did TWELVE worksheets today!!!"  "Go girl!  I made 47 cups!"  High fives all around.  (Her mood was not so good that didn't inform me that I'd embarrassed her by showing up to read in my wenchy pirate costume to read to the class.  I couldn't resist.  I got it at Marshall's the day after Halloween in 2012 for $5.)

We did have our first Halloween party for Steel; it's her actual birthday.  I was stressed about the logistics of throwing a Halloween party.  Does everyone go trick or treating en masse?  Do we skip trick or treating and just have a scavenger hunt?  Will any of her friends from the old hood venture out to Mt. Airy?  Will anyone leave their own places for her party?  I could feel my neighbor, Abby's incredulity at the lengths I was taking to ensure Steel's birthday bliss.  I'd thrown a surprise 50th for Tim the month before, and Toby's blowout was 2 weeks prior, so she'd probably been hearing about way to much party planning.  When Abby asked what to get Steel for her birthday, I couldn't help but text back, "Go to her birthday website.  It's www.steelturns7.com.  You can see what's left on the registry."  I was happy when I got back a quick, "lol."  I don't know why I was worried.  There was alcohol, glow sticks and way too much candy.  How could it not have been ok?

Steel was a very low maintenance "super model" for Halloween.  I applaud her genius.  Not only did she save me another pussy finger injury, but also she got herself a whole new outfit by saying she needed it for her Halloween costume.

Jack Peter will never be low-maintenance on any level...

Toby was a rock.

Back to NPR, I'm starting to worry about Terry Gross.  She's letting Dave Davies fill in for her an awful lot.  I'm sensing an illness, and I think it might be serious.  Maybe I missed my calling with healthcare.  I self-diagnose as well as intuiting disaster for radio personalities.  I'm generally really healthy, so subtle things set off alarms.  I've discovered that my ear wax no longer smells good to me.  This could be one of two things:  I've got pottery-related cancer/silicosis that is affecting my ears, nose and throat area, and it's just the beginning of my demise.  OR I drink too much, and my liver isn't managing to clean things up as well as it used to.  A third option is that I made the poor choice of introducing Jack Peter to the "Wet Willie."  What the HELL was I thinking???  There is nothing worse than dirty little boy finger in dirty little boy mouth inserted into my dirty big girl ear.  I rarely let him do it, so options 1 and 2 are the most likely.  I have also noticed that I have grown intolerant of cinnamon.  I used to like cinnamon.  I still do, but it can only be about 2 parts per billion.  I thought it was my mom's overdoing it on her apple pie, but it happened at a fancy restaurant too.  This could only be a symptom of two things: either I'm dying of a pottery-related lung disease or I drink too much and my body is so overwhelmed by its daily filtering job that it can't handle anything odd, like cinnamon.  A chiropractor blames everything on the mis-alignment of the spine.  I blame things on clay and alcohol.

The alcohol I blame on my children.  Eternal drudgery punctuated by moments of extreme chaos and others of unbelievable cuteness requires anesthesia.  Toby is coming out with the great one-liners these days.  She was talking about being fat.  She normally revels in her chubbiness as does the rest of the world.  Her dad got a little worried on this occasion and said, "Toby, you're not FAT!  You're PERFECT!"  She looked at him smiling and said, "Dada!  I can be fat and perfect!"  Yes, she can.  She also has a very healthy attitude towards competition.  "I don't care who wins unless I win."  How smart is that?  She also said to me the other day, "Mama, you're just a little bit not taller than Althea!"  (Althea is a statuesque new teacher at school.)  I think that one is going to come in handy.  "Guys, you're all just a little bit not going to get movie night; you can turn this around!"

Tim and Toby, sadly, have a lot of car time these days.  He's in charge of taking her to school 40 minutes away and picks her up a couple days a week as well.  He constantly laments that every minute of their ride isn't being recorded.  He got this one down, though.
Toby, "Dada, When I grow up I want to make it illegal for people to die."
Dada, "Why?"
Toby, "Because I don't want you or Mama or Willa or Jack Peter or Steel to die."
Dada, "Well you know that if you were a nurse or a doctor, you could help people live longer."
Toby, "Yeah!  That's a great idea, but Dada, can I be more than one thing?"
Dada, "Sure, what else do you want to be?"
Toby, "A rockstar and a babysitter."
Dada, "Why a rockstar?"
Toby, "Cause I just do, and I'm always making my own songs up, and rockstars are good singers."
Dada, "Why a babysitter?"
Toby, "So that moms and dads don't have to spend all their time with their kids.  Actually I also want to be a policewoman."
Dada, "Why?"
Toby, "So that I can keep people from hurting each other in fights, but if they do get hurt, I can help them as a doctor.  Oh! and I also want to be a karate instructor so I can help people get strong."

Jack Peter's life is also tedium interrupted by bright moments of ecstasy when he's allowed to play Minecraft. This happens less than once a week.  I felt compelled to mention this state of ongoing frustration to his teacher in the "things you might want to know about my kid" column.  I don't even know why I'm so stingy with the screen time, but then his old art teacher recommends him and Steel for a scholarship to this cool Saturday art class at Moore College of Art or his current teacher asks if she can spend a lunch a week with him and the other strong reader in his class doing extra reading work, and I attribute all of this to his not having screen time.  (I can add "too much screen time" to my list of diagnoses when I start my new healthcare career.)

Moore College of Art is right by Logan Square.  It was kind of fun to play in the fountain.  I was loving these pictures until I noticed that it was Saturday afternoon and Jack Peter was still wearing the gym clothes he wore to school on Friday, slept in and then wore to class on Saturday. 

Steel made this little angel at Moore.  The teacher was so blown away, and Steel had been talking about it for weeks.  At the little art opening some disaster transpired, and the angel fell apart.  We have since glued it, but Steel didn't freak out at all.  I never know with her.  She will LOSE HER SHIT over dessert or nail polish, and then be fine with something I consider much more tears-worthy.

Most parents are wrestling with the drudgery/chaos binary, but friends who held at one child are really starting to show signs of restored equilibrium.  One of my friends is an aesthetician who runs her own super-trendy salon.  One child was all she could manage.  I used to love watching her discomfort at my house when the crafts would get pulled out before the lunch plates were cleared or vice versa.  She'd continue to chat, but I could tell she was freaking out. Her beautiful eyes would dart around the room, briefly settling on rogue piles of glitter, as they were trying to meet mine.  It's been taking a lot to rattle her lately.  Luca, her kid got into a good Quaker school, and dresses, cleans, feeds herself.  At that insane birthday party of Toby's Kelley and I were having a perfectly relaxed conversation.  Undone by Kelley's cool, I found myself sticking the little jewels that Toby had freed from her present pile onto my eyelids without a mirror during the entire conversation.  Kelley finally said, "Are you doing that on PURPOSE???"  Sadly, I was.  I was missing seeing that "how is Liz functioning in this bedlam?" look.  It took a complete assault on her aesthetic senses to crack that newly calm veneer.

Another one-child Kelly is posting things on Facebook about running marathons and going on fun vacations.  She looks like she's in her 20's again; she's RADIANT!  Less than a year ago she was spending the evening of a snow day drinking wine with me mentally wrecked from having spent an entire work day with her ONE child.  I could feel good that I was equally harried, but I'd been with 3 kids.  This new calm Kelly and I were sitting at a torturesome birthday party at an apple orchard last month.  The entirety of urban Philadelphia had chosen that day to venture out into the Siberia-esque suburbs to get a pumpkin.  A bunch of balloons tied to the bench on which we were sitting was blowing erratically into my face an body.  I honestly hadn't noticed it.  She finally said, "Isn't that driving you crazy?"  "What? oh that?  I guess so?!"  Looking at her horrified I said, "Do you think those balloons are a metaphor for my entire existence?"  Her manicured eyebrows raised sympathetically as she nodded her assent.


I suppose another person might be annoyed by many aspects of my life.  I did finally snap on our cheap fridge.  I felt like I was playing a game of  Jenga every time I had to take something out of it, and the whole top half was lightly freezing things.  I told my husband that we should get a nice fridge in lieu of Christmas presents.  He did still get me Christmas presents which made me feel bad.  The best one was dim-able incandescent bulbs.  It was actually a present for him because I can't deal with bright ceiling lights.  He hasn't been able to see anything inside our house in the afternoon since daylight savings time ended.  So much for the Leed platinum green people we used to be.  We also just bought a massive Ford F150 truck because it made sense tax-wise.  We're dumping that Mini Cooper.  Screw the environment!


Jack Peter let me cut his hair on Thanksgiving for his Nanny.  The surfer look was driving his mom and Tim completely crazy.