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."
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."
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.