Monday, November 21, 2016

Rest Relaxation, doctors and vets

Tim convinced me to go away for a long weekend for our 10th anniversary.  I always question the brilliance of going away when preparing for it is utter chaos. Tim was leaving early in the mornings before the kids woke and working pretty late.  That left him exhausted and me to deal with gymnastics, playdates, piano nagging, cooking, laundry, etc.  On top of all of that I was doing my best to fight a urinary tract infection.  I was also spending a fair bit of energy denying that Steel was sick.

I just found the following quote in my blog notes:
Being nice to Steel when she's feigning being sick.  All she wants is love; why don't I give it to her????  Steel had the most ABSURD, marauding ailments the week before we left.  Her head ached, her stomach ached, her neck hurt, at one point she had Toby wake us in the middle of the night to tell us, "Steel CAN'T WALK!!!"  The loving response was, "Steel doesn't need to walk; tell her to go back to sleep!"  The next morning she was over acting her pronounced limp; I screamed at her to GET HER SNEAKERS ON and GET TO THE BUS STOP!!!!  

To Tim's utter shock, I decided to skip gymnastics and take her to the doctor.  I needed someone else to tell her that she is fine.  We couldn't get an appointment, so we did a walk-in.  This meant we had to wait for almost an hour.  Her young, sympathetic doctor was not there, so we met with a Grandma Susie-type older doctor.  I told Steel she had to do all of the talking.  I wanted to make the visit as unpleasant as possible, so she didn't think of going to the doctor as fun, mommy-Steel time.  I was pretty impressed  by her composure as she sat and told the doctor all of her problems of the past week.  I was catching the doctor's eye and practically rolling my eyes and circling my index finger around my ear (Did anyone else do that in grammar school to indicate that someone was crazy?)  I was saying things like, "Some of these things might be coming more from her head than from her body."  The doctor did a great job of making both of us feel heard.  She ascertained that Steel's headaches were more likely from tension than anything else.  She dwelt on the joint pain a little, but we talked about stretching for gymnastics.  The diagnosis was, "Steel, you need to run around at recess rather than sitting around and gossiping with your friends."  At the end of the appointment after she'd been stretching Steel's legs for her, Dr. Clarke told us that she'd be remiss if she didn't order a Lyme test "just to be sure."  PERFECT! Steel was going to have to endure a blood draw!  Now she definitely won't be asking for gratuitous trips to the doctor.

She survived the blood draw, but it was pretty dramatic.  Meanwhile, I'm getting crankier and crankier as my UTI isn't going away, and we are leaving in a day.  My inability to resist wine was the culprit. Meanwhile, Toby ends up getting ferried around during the week because she doesn't like being home alone with JP, so she has to come with me during both of Steel's gymnastics classes.  I try and set up a play date for her with Lilly every now and again. Lilly finishes her class right before Steel starts, so there's a perfect opportunity.  The plan was to make the hand off at 6 at gymnastics.  It occurred to me in a fit of UTI agony that I could make the walk-in time at the clinic if I got there before 6. I texted Lilly's mom, Rachel, that I'd hand her Steel and Toby, and she could take them both with her to drop Steel off and pick up Lilly, and I could rush to the clinic. We waited on Lilly's porch until the last minute while Rachel was looking for us at gymnastics; my text was not clear.  Steel was going to have to miss gymnastics because I was going to get antibiotics before going away to celebrate my 10th anniversary.  Toby was hysterical because she was going to miss her playdate. 

I was in and out of that clinic in FOUR MINUTES!  It was a miracle.  I had Toby back to Lilly's house just as they pulled up.  Steel had missed gymnastics, but that seemed to be providence as I was noticing her scratching her head.  We were going to take the hour and do one more olive oil, nit pick lice treatment. What else would I want to do the night before going away? We arrived home to Tim making dinner while shouting at Jack Peter because he'd caught him playing on the computer while he was home alone in lieu of doing his homework. The phone rings.  It's Dr. Clarke.  Steel has LYME DISEASE.  Steel gets hysterical and is screaming over and over again, "I don't WANT to have Lice and Lyme disease!!!!!"  The bottom line is that I'm leaving Tim's mom to deal with my kids, and now she's got to feel itchy the entire time, and she has to administer antibiotics to the biggest drama queen on the planet. Everyone is either crying, whining or shouting, and Tim reveals that he had THE WORST DAY ever.  He'd discovered that he was scheduled to lecture to 120 people at U Penn an hour after we were to arrive in New Orleans.

Steel does make an olive oil lice treatment look glamorous...

Our flight wasn't until 1, so Tim had time to figure out how he was going to lecture via computer. We got to the airport, grabbed lunch and made our first flight.  I rarely get sandwiches, so when I do, I want them to be worth the empty carbs of the bread.  I went to the "Earl of Sandwich" and ordered and Italian.  I was informed that the Earl hasn't pickles or onions or hot/sweet peppers.  I have difficulty accepting this.  I want to picket with a huge sign that says,  "Not Earl, Not Viscount, Not even Baron of sandwich...this is the squire of Sandwich..."  I decide to make my flight instead.

The planes were uneventful.  After so many nightmarish flights with kids, I cannot express the pure joy I feel when I'm on a plane, and I can read a four-month-old Vanity Fair swiped from the optometrist's office from cover to cover. On our final descent, the flight attendant announced, among other things, that we should change the time on our watches.  I turn to Tim who has heard nothing and ask him if he was aware that there is a time change between New Orleans and Philly.  He responds confidently that there is not.  I suggest that he check to make sure. Suddenly his plan to get to the hotel and give his lecture in our room is foiled. He has less than a half hour until lecture time.  He then has an altercation with the woman in the aisle seat.  I tell him that even if she lets him by, the 36 rows of people in front of us will not, so he needs to just RELAX. We deplane and scurry around the airport for 6 minutes asking random people in uniform if there might be a quiet room with fast internet access hidden somewhere in the airport. Obviously this leads to blank stares and nothing.  We get in a cab and drive 30 seconds to the Days Inn.  We secure a room, and I go for a swim rather than listen to Tim scream at the poor internet connection.  

My handsome husband having a beignet after a successful remote lecture. Beignets are so overrated.

After my healthy hour I end up at the bar.  The sympathetic concierge had given us 2 free drinks because she felt bad that renting a room was our only option. My companions were: Jason, the injured diver from the oil rigs who wasn't being compensated for his injuries and was in constant pain.  Bonnie, the mother of six who works at the IHop next door.  After having told her five kids that they could date anyone they wanted except a black person, she married a black man and her 6th child is bi-racial.  I thought she was my age or older, but she turned out to be 36.  I had to ask who she was going to vote for.  She can't vote because she's a felon. My third drink date was another oil rig worker who was more mainstream.  We talked about snowboarding.  The bartender had just blown $400 in a night of drinking and had to show up to drive the Days Inn airport shuttle with 2 hours of sleep and 16 drinks under his belt.  Tim came and wrestled me away from my new Days Inn family, and we Ubered to our hotel downtown.  Poor Jason wanted to come with us.  Toby, our posture police, would have admired the fact that the rod in his back prevented him from slouching (and, sadly, turning his head) but we weren't going to take him on for our anniversary weekend.

My review of that hotel was as follows:
So, the International house has pretty nice rooms, linens, and Aveda products. The maid was sweet. Our room had a "garden view" which was absurd: our window looked out on a concrete-enclosed area with a few shrubs.

The truly bad part of our stay was awakening to a COCKROACH as big as my thumb scuttling up my body towards my head. I shrieked, and my husband frantically shoo-ed it off of the bed. That was a dumb thing to do because it was then invisible on the dark, mottled floor. (I also didn't get a photo which made me sad...) I remembered the incident at breakfast; we called and requested something be done.

We returned late that night to a note from the manager saying she'd be in by 9 the next morning to talk about it. That lead me to believe that NOTHING had been done. We went to talk to the concierge. He said, to my request for roach hotels or spraying, "We don't have those things here! This is REALLY weird, and it's NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!" ummmmm...There are these amazing places called stores where you can send someone you pay minimum wage to go buy things. He seemed to be insinuating that we had brought the roach with us.

The manager wasn't there at 9 the next morning, so we left a message. The coffee is wretched, so we weren't going to sit and wait. She did call and told my husband that some spraying had been done but that they would wait to do the super-toxic spray. They also had no rooms to move us to. We saw her when we were leaving for dinner. She gave us a ticket for 2 free drinks at the hotel bar. 


Other than the cockroach incident, our entire stay was perfect and marriage-affirming.  (I'm only really mad about the cockroach thing because I didn't get a photo.)  We did Tulane and the garden district; we shopped on Magazine street; we listened to great music on Frenchman's; we rode bikes to the 9th ward to check out Brad Pitt's new construction and the aftermath of Katrina.  Both of us were in the mood to treat everyone we met during the 3 days as guests at our personal cocktail party. We did make the mistake of asking a very large native American marine who he was going to vote for.  The ensuing conversation was fun and civil, but somehow he was asked to leave the bar by the quiet, bespectacled, bartender in white tails who had repeatedly asked us to change the subject.  I've never experienced that sort of Southern "we don't talk about those things here" gentility. Tim and I paid our tab and left.  We exited the bar and were greeted by a lovely 4-some of well wishers.

Our re-entry was less-than-smooth.  Somehow Carol had been coerced by Steel to go to Petco.  There Steel fell in love with a kitten.  Despite 4 out of 5 of us being allergic, we already have a cat.  Rocky arrived because I was complaining about rodents at a fall ball game last year, and one of the dads needed to relieve his girlfriend of a surly cat.  Rocky has been PURRFECT.  He's not cuddly, so we don't feel bad about not cuddling him, and he is a phenomenal hunter. He takes his job seriously.  He does (as Toby informed her teacher) "poop in the garden" but that's better than the litter box, right?  Steel, the most allergic of all of us, said that she'd pay for the kitten herself, and it would be her birthday present.  

Steel's birthday is Halloween; the day after our return.  Yes, I'd sorted out costumes before we left.  JP's got done in 20 minutes although he nagged me about it for the entire month of October.  He's not a perfectionist.  He was fine with wearing the crotch of one of his sister's tights over his face and my less-than-manly jacket, and he didn't care that the Sharpie he used to make the face (I still don't know what he was) was faded and crappy.  Steel wanted a Target sexy witch outfit (which hurt my soul, but it's her birthday)  She's definitely going to be one of the the "sexy whatever" girls for the rest of her Halloween career.  This year Toby wanted to be a stalk of asparagus.  Given Toby's dimensions, making her costume to scale was a challenge.  We nailed it; she had a spray bottle filled with "asparagus pee" to make her that much scarier.

The photo on the left is, I fear, a future Steel Halloween costume from New Orleans.

Tim took on the kitten quest.  He went to Petco and confidently filled out the application.  (not unlike his confidence in there not being a time change between Philly and New Orleans)  All went well until he described Rocky as a "mean cat."  The woman took her glasses off to look him in the eye and said, "No cat is mean.  Meanness is a response to its OWNER."  We were denied not only for Steel's kitten, Sunshine, but for any future kitten.  (I wanted to call that woman and tell her I'd kept a goddamned HERMIT CRAB alive for 3.5 years and counting, and our carnival gold fish have doubled in size and are thriving -ok we lost another 6 fish, and I was calling the tank Fishwitz for a while, but she didn't need to know that!)  I suggested Craigslist.  Tim wanted to check the "get a kitten" box off on his 'to do' list.  A few days later, he told me that they were going to buy a kitten in a parking lot 40 minutes away on a Monday night after gymnastics.  (?????)  JP and I opted out of this craziness.

JP achieved his first ponytail.  He was thrilled.  Man bun to follow, I'm sure.

An hour and a half later Tim and the girls returned with Nola Pearl McDonald, the tiniest, cutest kitten on Earth.  She was perfect.  She puffed up her 13 oz self to stare down growling Rocky.  She attacked the fringe on the rug, fell down the stairs, and chased her tail.  More importantly, she was there for us when we discovered that Hillary Clinton had not, in fact, won in a Landslide and turned the House and the Senate democratic-even winning TEXAS because she turned out the Latino vote so successfully.  (This was the cycling reverie I entertained on my way home from the polls.  I went to bed at 9:23 on election night confident that there was no need to watch the returns)  

Nola was the belle of our ball for 2 days.  She came with us to a local restaurant and nibbled on my Bronzino while the entire clientele passed her around. One killjoy told me, "That kitten is WAY too small to be away from its mother!" I published a Facebook video of Nola aggressively eating Steel's pancakes.  Pat's ex wife commented on the post that "that kitten is probably too little to be eating anything like pancakes."  Yeah whatever, Michele.  

Nola almost died.  She started diarrhea and puking and not eating.  It got to be so scary I took her to the vet.  (Remember I don't even take my kids to the doctor, so this was a bold move)  $250 later I am rebuked for having such a small kitten and told that I should probably put her in a 24 hour care unit with and IV for $1000 a night and that she still might die.  Clearly that wasn't going to happen, so Tim and I nursed her for 48 hours.  It was TERRIFYING.  She could keep nothing down and shat/puked everywhere.  Nothing the vet had given me worked-goat's milk, tinned kitten food, crazy expensive molasses lick-nothing.  Tim called the vet and was told to get baby food for her.  A Facebook post elicited a "canned peaches syrup" suggestion.  In desperation I asked the groovy neighbor, Grace, whose birthday is also Halloween.  She hands out cognac and cider to the parents all night.  She said I had to force feed her kitten formula.  She was right.  Nola is back to her tail chasing, Rocky-confronting self.  

Poor Rocky, first Nola came, then I got coerced into taking him in for a round of shots by the rapacious vet, and then we had houseguests who arrived with their "puppy." The puppy was an Irish Wolfhound that was the exact size of 3 Tobys.  It was a pony in my kitchen. Nola stood up to the dog as well.  Rocky was HORRIFIED.  So now we are a 2-cat family, and we have a bigoted moron as our President elect. 

I was a hastily thrown together Andy Warhol's Queen Elizabeth

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Death, parenting, playdates and the usual miscommunications

I woke up yesterday to a message from an old friend, Maria, telling me her ex had died.  I had always loved that guy.  His name was Tim Cloonan.  His eyes went down at the corners, and he designed and built base guitars in a space next to mine.  He'd come in daily for his mail, and we'd chat for a short while because both of us were alone all day being craftspeople, and we had similar gripes with UPS.  Maria had bought a wedding gift for him and his new wife from me.  I hadn't seen him in a while, but I still felt close to him.  Upon hearing of his death, I thought, "Oh geez.  This is going to be on Facebook."  I wanted to tell our old nanny.  She knew him through us and because her boyfriend, also a guitar maker, worked with him.  I texted him the news because he tends to be less fragile than she.  

I rode my bike to work.  I got sadder and sadder as the ride went on.  When I arrived at my studio, I got a call from a guy who did not know Tim chastising me for texting and not having called about the death.  How quickly my grief turned to rage.  I was shaking.  I could not believe that someone was lecturing me on etiquette on a day that they knew I'd lost a friend.  He was understanding and contrite.  He had projected his anger at someone in his life who'd texted rather than called onto me.  He apologized.  He asked that I not mention his phone call when I eventually talked to his roommate.  I know it's not traditional, but I love hearing things via text.  I can process the news on my my own or with my husband.  I don't have to speak or be evaluated on my response.  Clearly I'll think twice before I do it again, though.

At the end of the day, I called the nanny's boyfriend because the contrite friend told me he was suffering and needed to speak to someone on the phone.  During the entire phone call he discussed the inadequacies of texting.  I came away from the conversation so sad that I couldn't just spend the day visualizing Tim Cloonan's beautiful face and lovely voice.  Instead I was processing how much it hurt that someone needed to make me wrong when my intentions were to be kind.

I'm not used to death.  Last blog I was marveling at being with family in Montana and seeing little snippets of traits that have manifested in my children.  I lost an Aunt last November.  My aunt was a Kinder.  I know Karen would have been my friend had we been contemporaries, and that's not just because she was a Sagittarius.  My senior year in college, I'd brought a friend to visit with Aunt Karen and my Uncle Carl.  It was great.  She lived her life on Nantucket.  She was a kindergarten teacher and then she was a librarian.  She sent the coolest books to my kids.  She and Carl were both into the environment and healthy food way before it was chic.  

After Karen's death, her daughter, Katherine came to visit me in Philly because her daughter was spending a weekend at Swarthmore trying to decide between it and Tufts.  Katherine is my first cousin, but I know Tim's first and second cousins better than I know her.  First of all, she's 6'2".  She has Kinder hands which means they are like slim flippers.  She walked in the door, and Steel said immediately, "CAN I DO YOUR NAILS????"  Katherine gleefully obliged even though she's raised her family on a farm in Vermont without any access to the vile chemicals one finds in nail polish.  During her manicure, Katherine and I discussed "Kinder genes."  Her mom could not negotiate opening things.  The well-designed cardboard boxes for vegan spelt crackers would be tragically torn apart with no hope for the little tab-tucking closures.  This was my experience with my dad; his cardboard tearing usually involved a stream of expletives to brighten up every new box of Raisin Bran.  I, too, open the half and half on both sides of the carton.  I consistently render "zip seal" packaging useless on the carrots and craisins by using scissors to open the other side.  It's nice to know that it's genetic.  Every time Steel slams her 54 pound body against a door that says "pull;" she looks at me and says, "Yep! I'm a Kinder!!!!"  The beat goes on; rest in Peace, Karen.

My kids aren't used to death or anything bad, really.  I always wonder if my kids aren't going to turn out as well as my niece and nephew or my godchildren because, unlike those kids, my kids don't really have true hardships.  Last spring we were listening to "Where the Red Fern Grows" in the minivan on the way to school.  We carpool with another family.  Their dad is violent, bi-polar and was in jail for assaulting a police officer.  The boy was listening to the audio and said, "I remember this!  I saw the movie!!!"  I asked him if he cried like crazy, and he said, "NO!"  I was ribbing him that he thinks he'll never cry in a movie, but on his first date with a girl he'll be blubbering at the movie theater.  He responded, "I won't ever cry at a movie.  I know it's not real life."  Shit...I guess when you've had something in real life to cry about you can make that distinction.  Our lovely California nieces have had to confront their dad's prostate cancer.  He caught it early and had successful surgery, but still, I'm sure it's been hard for them.  When Tim and his brothers had to go get theirs checked, he told me that I should do mine as well "even though I'm not technically related to Mike."  I'm not sure Tim is going to live down not knowing that women don't have prostate glands.  His is fine, though :)

On a lighter note, this year Toby and I have a little hang out time while Steel does gymnastics on Mondays and Wednesdays.  JP opts to stay at home by himself.  Usually I hide all access to the internet although 2 weeks ago, Steel and I had our first bet.  It was $5 on whether or not JP was going to be on the computer when we returned.  She bet, "no;"  I won.  She cried for an HOUR about the $5!  That was my first clue that the only way to motivate my children is money.  I had a cognizant flash before we left that Toby needed to pee.  I didn't follow through with it, so as soon as we'd dropped Steel off, parked the car, and started our fun walk in Chestnut Hill, Toby started to wiggle.  She needed to pee PRONTO.  We ducked into the co-op grocery store, and while she peed, I told her not to flush, as I was going after her.  This is our little pattern.  Maybe the mutual desire to pee is the thing that makes having kids when you're older not so bad.  Successfully finding nits in kids' hair while trying to avoid admitting that I'm far-sighted is the thing that makes me wish I were a young mom.  

I'm on my swampy butt in front of my potter's wheel lately. My muscles don't roll with sitting, and when it's hot, my skin objects as well.  I got up from my pee with Toby at the co op, and told her that I have a painful zit on my ass.  She looked at it and said, "It's white!!!"  At her request, I squeezed it.  She lamented that she didn't have one to squeeze.  I told her she was tempting the fates.  She'd have big pimples on her face if she didn't watch it.  She responded calmly, "At least I'll get to pop them!"  One of my ex-roommates used to collect her boyfriend's belly button lint in a cute, little, lidded box.  Now the girls have started scab collection, so why should I be surprised by relishing a good zit explosion?   Speaking of explosions.  Toby told us last year that when she gets let out of school for recess she likes to be first in line, and she runs as fast as she can to the log.  She told us she farts the whole time she's running.  I love thinking about that.  She still says cute things like, "deaf in the eyes" to describe blind people.  She brings home hilarious, phonetically-written schoolwork.  I'm so glad her teacher is privy to the fact that our cat poops in the garden.
We are starting to enter the realm of our kids' dictating their own social lives.  The, "I get along with the parents, so let's all hang out." days are numbered.  I just learned that Jack Peter doesn't actually like the kid that would come over on Fridays because his mom and I got along.  The kid covered all of our toilet seats with Vaseline.  Maybe my relationship with the mom isn't all that important.  
We are dealing with parents we don't know.  I had a HIDEOUS miscommunication based on a playdate the girls had.  We realized at soccer on a Saturday morning that another family who lives right around the corner has 2 girls the same ages from the same school.  I hastily invited their girls over to diffuse the fallout from an aborted Toby playdate with her BFF.  It turned out to be a fabulous 4 hours where the girls ravaged my make up, their own closets, and I was left to garden.  At one point they all decided they needed fake nails.  I often let Toby and Steel go to the 2-block-away CVS, so when they'd gathered a posse of 4, of course, I let them go.  They all returned, and noxious glue and plastic prevailed for the rest of the afternoon.  The only part of the visit that gave me pause was when I was preparing for a date night, and there was a knock on my door.  I was naked.  One would assume that, as a naked person with non-family members in the house, I would not respond to the knock with, "Yeah?!"  Steel's friend came in looking for a bobby pin.  I didn't want to make her feel weird about my being naked, so I told her where they were and left her to forage while I dressed.

2 weeks later, Steel is begging to go to the neighbor girls' house after soccer.  It's not ideal because Toby has plans, so I leave Steel to negotiate.  Steel comes back and tells me that her friend's mom is angry that I let them all go to CVS!  Now I have to run home and write an email explaining that it never occurred to me that letting them go to CVS would be a problem.  I was wrong and had no right to let them go on their own and was so sorry. AND by the way, I had inadvertently put their older daughter in the position of seeing my saggy-boobed, pre-menopausal self without clothes on...
The crazy footnote to the story is that these two sisters were the ones approached by a crazy person in the winter.  The girls screamed and ran home.  The parents posted this information on a listserv, and it was a great segue into a conversation about strangers in our house.  Those two girls maintain rockstar status for how they reacted to the situation.  This fact did cross my mind as I OK'd the trip to CVS.  What should have gone through my head was, "these parents have PTSD from this hideous experience IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD!"  What actually went through my addled brain was, "Oh! I know they let their girls out of their sight sometimes as well..."

That same day I had another frantic e-mail with Jack Peter's amazing new teacher.  She'd contacted me about his 3 homework referrals in the first 2 weeks of school.  I guess I'm not a helicopter parent, because I had no idea he wasn't getting his shit done.  I'd responded with my usual, wordy, life-explaining e-mail which evoked her response of, "This is the funniest e-mail I've ever gotten from a parent."  We back and forth-ed about JP and his strengths and weaknesses.  

I have no idea how the school chooses which teacher for which kid.  I obsess over which one they are going to get and read so much into these decisions.  No one knows how these decisions are made.  It's just another example of how much precious and limited pre-menopausal brain space I give to things that have no resolution.  I read a book about menopause over the summer.  Its premise was that stopping bleeding is not the anomaly in the life of a woman.  She only spends 40-ish years bleeding.  During that time she gets an influx of nurturing hormones that make her happy to prepare different lunches for every kid, do laundry with every free moment, and be loving, focussed, non-confrontational and hospitable.  It's the rest of the time that defines who she really is, when she's a spoiled, needy pre-pubescent child or a post-menopausal woman who no longer wants to dedicate every waking moment to someone other that herself.  We've been duped to think that we have gone crazy when we stop taking care of everyone when in fact, we are back to being selfish and sane.  Maybe I just liked the title, "the madwoman in the volvo"

Back to JP's teacher, an inquiry by me about some dumb, online reading comprehension program that other 5th grade teachers are assigning lead his thoughtful, smart, funny, methodical teacher to believe that I wasn't happy with her decisions.  She actually told me that if I wanted another teacher, she'd arrange it although she'd miss Jack Peter very much.  I haven't been that misunderstood in a long time.  She'd mentioned something in one of her e-mails about putting JP in the corner with a dunce hat on or giving him some kind of Hester Prynn-esque scarlet letter "A."  She thought later that I didn't know she was kidding.  I'm actually happy about the whole thing.  We trick or treat at her house.   I think I'll wear a dunce cap for Halloween, and then when Christmas comes I'll make her a cup AND a belt buckle with enormous scarlet "A's" on them.  I'll write something about how she gets an "A," so it'll seem fine to JP, but hopefully it will crack her up.  I'll take any excuse to make an adulterous-looking belt buckle.

Back to playdates.  Steel and I were driving home from a play date.  I'd arrived at the play date looking pretty put-together.  I like to look pretty on Sunday mornings because then people might think I've been to church.  Now that I don't know the parents piety is a good thing to convey.  I'd returned to pick her up looking like I'd been through a spin cycle and hurried her into the mini van cocoon.  On our way home, we passed a CVS with an upturned shopping cart on the berm below the store.  Steel wanted it.  I told her that nothing would come from our owning a CVS shopping cart except that people would then know we were the kind of people who steal CVS shopping carts.  Steel responded that Fern Duffy told her that "When people are drunk, they run funny, and they almost always have a shopping cart."  I love 8-year-old world views.

We went to Kohl's to start our back-to-school shopping.  I was focussed on $5.99 leggings, hip uniform khaki/leggings (kheggings?) and on-sale bathing suits for $9.00 that might work for next year.  We survive on hand me downs, but the hand-me-down bathing suits tend to make that creaking sound of dead elastic, sag in the bums and are see-through.  I'd actually hidden a bathing suit that I thought Steel might like.  Sneaking into Kohl's and digging out a hidden bathing suit tickled her to no end.   I was contemplating the 7/8 versus the 10's; Steel will be 9.  Why do kid's sizes leap 20% of their lives?  It's as if I had to decide between my current height 5'9" and 80% of my height which would be 4'6", and my weight of 148 lb and the next size down being 118 lb.

Steel grabbed herself a padded bra to try on.  I had to witness her trying it on, admiring it, putting her shirt over it, thinking it looked stupid, then putting it on via stepping into it, admiring it and attempting to again put her shirt over it.  I told her she's 9, and she's not getting a padded bra. "When you actually have to wear a bra, you'll look back fondly on these days."  During the ride home, she lamented that because she's built like me she won't have big boobs.  It reminded me of her giving my boobs a sound effect.  She had been talking about her friend's mom who had just had her 7th child.  She said "A's mom's boobs are like this."  She made an appreciative sound as she gestured out in front of her chest.  "Mom, your boobs are kind of like this!"  She made a swooshing sound and gestured with her hands to indicate two ski jumps starting at her neck and hurtling downwards at great speed.  Who knew my boobs came with a downward swoosh sound effect?  Boobs have a lot of currency in my brother's family.  His step son has a new girlfriend.  The old one was ADORABLE!  She looked a lot like my niece which means a 12-year-old, elf-like, could-be-a-strawberry-shortcake character.  The new girlfriend looks like she's 30.  She's pretty, but the truly remarkable thing is that she's tall and slim and has massive, gravity-defying, round boobs that she's not afraid to emphasize.  My brother refers to her as, "the upgrade."

my niece who does, indeed, look like a character out of Strawberry Shortcake.  Even with her tongue out she's cute.

Steel and I returned home and were gloating about the amount of clothing we'd gotten at Kohl's.  It seems that they pay you to shop at Kohl's with all of their weird discounts and coupons.  I said, "How do they sell ALL OF THIS for $87???"  Theo, our 16-year-old French Canadian responded, "slavery."  Of course I know this to be true.  It caught me, though.  I will drive to 3 different grocery stores to make sure that the pork I'm buying was humanely raised, and yet I'll buy clothes that were sewn together by kids my kids' ages working 16-hour days.  My mother in law said, "The kids who have those jobs are probably so much better off than the ones who don't!"  Living with a Republican has its perks.  Carol was with us for much of the summer while her house was getting re-built.  Honestly having her for the summer was like being in a parenting spa.  She would do ALL of our laundry on Thursdays.  Poor Theo had been threatened by his parents that they'd be PISSED if he didn't do his own laundry while staying at our house.  He'd see the neat, folded piles on his bed and panic.  Most days at work around 4:30 I'd get a text saying, "What should I do to get dinner started?" or "I'm at the store, give me a list of what to get!"  It was kind of annoying that she'd never let us pay for the groceries.  In general, the kids behaved better with her around, but sometimes having her witness the chaos was ever-so-slightly embarrassing.  Those "drawbacks" are nothing compared to the benefits of having her around.  We miss her.

So Theo stayed with us for 6 weeks this summer.  He's the son of one of Tim's best friends.  He came to work on Tim's new project.  I'm quite  sure he won't be having kids anytime soon, if at all, after his summer with us.  The girls TORTURED him constantly.  Steel definitely had a crush.  She would scream dramatically and run downstairs saying, "MOM! I just saw something DISGUSTING!!!"  "WHAT?????"  "Theo WITH HIS SHIRT OFF!!!!!"  Because he's French, he'd get misty-eyed about his favorite Aunt who would give them foie gras.  One night he made dinner for us.  It was a lovely Risotto.  He was sad because the parmesan that  my mother in law had bought was pasteurized.  We started to call him "Prince Pondi-theo (after Prince Pondicherry from Charlie and the Chocolate factory)

 It was great to have him.  We went on a couple mountain bike rides together.  Apparently the seat on his bike kept collapsing down, so maybe he literally won't be fathering children after staying with us.  I am SO GLAD he's a heavy sleeper.  He was in JP's room most of the summer.  At one point he left for a couple weeks, so JP went back in there.  I came in late one night after a date night.  Normally Tim is the one who has to sneak in an peek at the kids before he can sleep.  I was tipsily looking at the body of what I thought to be my son.  I could not figure out why he looked SO BIG!!!!  Imagine if poor Theo had awakened to my teetering self looming above and staring at him.
(Wouldn't it be just disgusting to see Theo with his shirt off???)

We had the first 2 days off last week because of the Jewish New Year.  Tim took the kids one of the days because he was going to Washington state for the rest of the week.  They had to go from work site to work site with him; they stopped by the office/my studio.  The kids hadn't eaten in 4 hours.  There is no "bag of snacks" when dad is in charge.  I split the second holiday with another dad.  He took them to a park to run around with all of the other kids in our hood.  A mom had organized this, and I let him know.  I will say nothing sexist or offensive about what makes social things happen in kids' worlds, but suffice it to say that a penis is rarely involved.  After the running around part, I had them for lunch and the rest of the afternoon.  I don't allow screen time, so there was complaining, hair dying and baking.  The girls were talking through one of their cupcakes.  His name was "Paul."  Who names a cupcake, "Paul???"  Then again, Toby (whose name really should be SLOW-by because she's so damned slow) has been talking about a new kid named Larry.  Who names a first grader LARRY?

JP got a blue dye job.  It went really blue because we'd bleached it before the summer for him to look like an authentic Danish Tycho Brahe for his project.  Theo was instrumental in the creation of the Tycho mustache.  Putting that thing on different people was en entire evening of hilarity.  I think I look like a pretty great 70's country singer trying to break into the rock world.  Theo looked like a slave owner.  I'm officially the GreenWoodsCharter School hair-dye mom.  I'm proud of my work.

The one thing I regret is not speaking French all summer with Theo.  I'm still getting a lot of guff from the kids about practicing piano.  They just don't want to do it.  I told them that as long as they don't have a foreign language at school, they will be playing piano.  Steel insists that she wants private French lessons.  When Tim was gone, I lost it.  All of the "leaving stuff on the floor," "griping about piano," etc. worked my last nerve.  There's been another "problem" lingering in the air.  We started a "paying kids for their good grades" thing when JP was having troubles at school.  Then Steel comes along.  She loves school.  She had to give a presentation and was gleefully saying, "I get to get up on the PODIUM!"  (At her age I would have been TERRIFIED by that prospect.)  In 2nd grade kids get graded for way too many things.  I think she got an a+ in nose-picking.  Now each of those A's is worth $2.  We owed Steel somewhere around $80 for her final report card.  We owed all of them a chunk of change, and I'd not paid up all summer long.

In disciplining desperation, I wrote the totals that we owe each kid in 3 columns in a blue notebook.  I told them I'd pay them what I owe them by Halloween.  Since then, I've been docking them.  Steel will take the tags off of those new kheggings and THROW THE TAGS ON THE FLOOR.  I charge $.25 for everything I find on the floor or for every object that does not get back to where it should go.  A pair of socks and shoes together is $1 total.  I'm not messing around.  Hitting is $1.  Lying is $2.  Complaining has varying costs based on my irritation level.  It's WORKING!  First of all, JP is much tidier and complains less, so he's losing less money, but that's good because he made less money as he only got graded for things that actually matter.  The girls are whining, fighting slobs, so they are losing money hand over fist.  It's perfect...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Who hates glitter?????

Against everyone's better judgement I chose to fly myself and the kids out to Montana for spring break.  Last year while I helped my mom with her hip replacement, Tim took the kids to DISNEY, so it was my turn.  Tim went to Canada for another funeral; his forecast that this will be the "decade of death" is proving to be spot on. $600/per ticket plus equipment rentals and lift tickets was shaking out to be a lot of cups and bowls.  I've had heart-breaking kiln disasters, so cups and bowls aren't coming so easy.  I spent WAY too much time trolling around the various cheap air websites looking for tickets.  I finally bought the tickets and spent as much time as I'd spent looking for tickets imagining possible bad outcomes: no snow, no one likes skiing, we infect my 87-year-old uncle with lice and toe fungus, the plane crashes, the hermit crab dies; the cat gets run over, a political argument renders us homeless in Montana.  My mom warned me not to talk politics while there.  I couldn't resist.  My beloved uncle Wally said the words: Liz, I think Donald will get a good team together.  When I told him I was a Hillary Clinton fan, he said, "She's just so STRIDENT!"  I was speechless.  This whole thing has exposed such latent misogyny in this country, but I digress.

The outbound trip to Bozeman had 5 layers: a ride to 30th street station from Tim, an Amtrak train to Newark, a shuttle to the airport, a plane ride, and then a 40-minute drive to Big Sky.  All of this seemed do-able until Jack Peter developed a super-high fever at 30th street.  He was almost unable to walk, let alone carry anything or eat.  Luckily, our flight was empty.  It felt like the 90's; we all had entire rows to ourselves.  I'd have been willing to suspend my screen-time stinginess, but I couldn't figure out how to download the inflight entertainment, so sleep was the only option, and sleep they did.  JP's illness cleared up enough so that I thought he could handle taking a snow boarding class.  I was wrong.  The girls wisely opted for skiing because they adore every female in the family who isn't their mom.  All of those women ski.  By the end of their first day, the girls were comfortable little skiers. JP was another story.  He needed threats, bribery, Batman vs Superman, and a lot of love to get him back on that board.  After 2 days, I made a panicked call to Tim about how I thought JP was having his first landmark moment of self-consciousness and inadequacy, and it was all my fault.  Tim smoothed my feathers. We got through the whole snowboard drama, so I can honestly say that all 3 of my children can easily make it down a mountain. 

A slightly bumpy road with Jack Peter and the 2nd degree burns on Toby's face (8 hours on the mountain without sunscreen; Steel's was almost as bad.) were the only mars on the face of a perfect vacation  As I'd feared the snow was threadbare, but as soon as we were safely there, it snowed every night.  I had an afternoon and a full day of snow boarding by myself in powder and sunshine. I've always relied on other people to negotiate runs and lifts, but I used the map and felt ridiculously prideful about it.  I met Betsey's 25-year-old for drinks and lunch and got CARDED.  Clearly that was the best moment of my trip.  I got to cook a couple meals.  I beat both my uncle Wally and my cousin Walt to the check when we went out, so I didn't feel like a complete free-loader.  I'd spent 2 summers with that side of the family when I was 12 and 13, and I love them all. People calling Betsey, the cousin I idolized, "Grandma"  bugged me a little, but she married a guy who has grandkids, and his daughter in law is also Betsey, so it makes sense, but still...

who the hell would card that face????

The trip was almost too good.  It was as if someone from central casting had put together a perfect western experience for my kids.  Wally made the mistake of mentioning that he'd just spotted 2 big-horned sheep on the road, and not stopped.  Toby was livid about it, so Beth, the housekeeper said, "Toby, get your coat on!"  She marched her down the driveway and over to a herd of 6 big-horned sheep.  When we arrived at The Coral for dinner, 2 drunken cowboys entertained the kids with their swaying and slurring for most of the meal.  We went to Yellowstone and sat in the Boiling River.  We sat there for a couple hours groping around for hot spots and watching the various tattooed hipsters take selfies while JP photobombed them.  On our way out a herd of buffalo marched by.  Steel was sauntering up to one of them when Kelsea shouted, "Do you want to be a headline in the newspaper????  Dumb kid from Philadelphia mauled by buffalo?????"  On our way back to Big Sky elk were in every yard munching on the lawns while bunnies hopped by. It was almost too much.

I love being with family and trying to patch together whose qualities are popping up where.  With my cousins it was a comparison of random ailments: Anne got grandma's wonky thumb.  I got her mania.  Betsey got her inability to sleep.  I'm not sure what comes from whom with my kids.  They are like Tim and me in some ways and so unlike us in others.

I didn’t question what I read or what was said to me until I was told to think critically at some point in high school or maybe even in college.  Toby did not inherit that lemming-like quality.  Tim was driving her home from school at the same time I was listening to “Fresh Air” in my studio.  Terry was interviewing Toni Morrison. Toni told a harrowing story about her father’s bludgeoning a white guy and throwing her sister's bike at him as he retreated down their back stairs.  When I arrived home, Toby wanted to tell me what a great interview she’d heard on “Fresh Air.”  I interrupted to ask if it was the story I’d heard, and it was.  Toby’s face then contorted into a grimace of rage as she said, “Mommy!  Do you know what they talked about after that interview????  (while I was cycling home) They did a whole thing on NICKNAMES!  Who cares about nicknames?  It was SO STUPID!!!!”  I can easily imagine 6-year-old Toby calling up NPR to discuss their bad programming decisions. 

We had a car full of kids on the way to baseball the other night.  I wouldn't have said a word with my older brother and his friends, but one of JP's friends told him he couldn't go to JP's slumber party because he was going on a tramping kip. (camping trip)  Everyone was about to let it go when Toby looked at him and screamed, "YOU JUST SAID TRAMPING KIP!!!" and laughed with such gusto, the entire car was in hysterics for a good 4 minutes.  That girl just doesn't let shit go.

Toby might have some Aunt Sue in her.  Along with fastidiously cleaning little dogs, Sue has to mop and scour her environment daily.  When things get rough for Toby, I give her a mop.  Aunt Jill, the dentist, is technically not related to my kids, but her influence is popping up.  Toby was watching me brush my teeth the other morning.  I lie on my bed on my back and let the electric toothbrush do the work.  I seize any opportunity to lie down and not drool.  Toby asked if she could brush my teeth, and I said, “no.”  When I was finished I asked why.  She said, “Mommy, you’ve got some yellow spots on your teeth that I want to get off.”  I told her those won’t come off no matter how hard she scrubs because they are stains from coffee and wine and things like that.  She looked at me in horror and asked, “Do you get those stains from beer?”  I said I didn’t think so.  She let out a contented sigh and said, “PHEW!”

Toby is thinking all the time.  Tim used to send me long texts quoting their conversations in the car as they drove to daycare last year.  We tell her how unique her brain is and how funny she is. She seems pleased with the complements, but then she'll say something like.  "Yes, my brain is often very bright and colorful, but then, sometimes, it just goes black."  That's exactly how I feel when I'm trying to follow Ira Flatow's Science Friday.

Toby's boob fascination continues.  She was looking at a perfume ad in a magazine.  “Momma!  She doesn’t have any nipples!!!”  I said, “Yes she does!  The ribbon is covering them.”  Toby said, “Shouldn’t her nipple be DOWN HERE?” pointing to the uncovered bottom of the woman’s breast.  “Nope," I said, "She hasn’t breastfed 3 babies.”  Toby was flabbergasted.  “When I get boobs, my nipples are going to be up here??  That’s WEIRD!”  I remember thinking that my mom’s stretchmark-riddled tummy was so much prettier than all the other mom’s tummies because it looked lacy to me.  It’s nice to know that my saggy boobs look right to Toby, and perky ones look WEIRD.
Steel continues to be absolutely perfect at school saving all of her sass and meltdowns for us.  She’s completely obsessed with how she looks and who’s pretty and why.  I was like that too.  I was too shy to talk about it, but I thought it. She lost her hip Warby Parker-ish glasses and is left with the more conservative ones.  It’s a constant battle to get her to wear them.  They make her head ache.  They make her stomach ache... I discovered the reason she wants to go to Masterman (a school you have to test into) is not because she wants to prove she’s the best but because they don’t have a uniform.  I’ve almost entirely given up on the “Leggings aren’t pants” battle.  I thought I’d won when I had her put on a Grandma Susie skirt that was too short but still better than nothing.  I told her that the way the skirt goes out makes her look super long-legged.  She looked in the mirror and chirped happily, “I’M SO SKINNY!!!” The skirt was in the book bag when she came home.  Now she’s taken to putting really tight short shorts over the leggings, which makes her look like a stripper. 

She spent an entire hour at the ice rink practicing glamorous falls with her friend, Margaret. (who looks EXACTLY like Brittney Spears)  She’s constantly posing and singing to herself in the mirror, and yet, she refuses to brush her hair.  Poor Tim picks that battle every morning.  I let her look like a dirty hippy.  I’m more concerned about her ass.  None of her primping goes by unnoticed. Teachers and parents constantly tell me how fashionable Steel is.  Even when I say, "Really? those gymnastic shorts over her leggings are working in your opinion?"  The response is usually an emphatic, "Yes they are!" followed by a minute, but detectable, "I feel sorry for you." flinch.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  I felt comfortable wearing this to a party in college.  Our 25th reunion is this May.  The reunion committee put together a huge book of photos that people sent in.  I was wavering about going to the reunion.  Seeing a picture of me in this get up dancing lasciviously with one of my gay friends was surprising.  Now I'm definitely not going.

Steel's vanity extends beyond herself.  She looked at my head and asked plaintively, “Mommy why can’t you have a REAL hair color? Yours is grey and blue.” Letting her voice trail off and get softer and more questioning she added, “and pink and yellow and green?” I remember asking my mom to wear high heels all the time and frowning upon some of her outfit choices, so I get it.  Confidence-plummeting, back-handed complements are her forte: "Mommy you look nice when you get out of the shower! Before you shower, you look so old and WRINKLY!!!!!"  She often reminds me of my mom's mom who would say things to my mom like, "Susie, you look nice!" and then she'd turn to me as if my mother had suddenly lost her hearing and say, "EXCEPT FOR THAT CAN!!!!!"  Her eye muscles would quiver as she'd lift the undulating folds of her eyelids to implicate my mom's rump.

Steel also gets really bent out of shape when boys tease her.  Boys are lower life form.  She never finds one cute.  After YEARS of asking,  “Is that one cute?  Is THAT one good looking????” she finally told me that she finds the host of “Cupcake Wars” attractive.  I was excited to have something to go on, but now she’s reneged.  One boy teases her about being married to Matthew.  I told her that she should just reply, “How could I be married to him???  I’m engaged to Lucas!  We just picked out our flatware!” With every ridiculous response she howled from the back of the car, “Say another one mommy!!”  “I’m not married to MATTHEW; I’ve had 3 illegitimate children with NICHOLAS!”  “I WAS married to him, but we divorced on Valentine’s Day.”  “Matthew?  Oh no!  I’m saving myself for Donald Trump…”  She also gets bent if she feels snubbed by another girl.  These imagined or real transgressions will annoy her from lunch until I pick her up at 6.  I hope she learns to let this stuff roll off. 

Toby is feeling the same about boys, by the way.  She told me yesterday that she wants to be gay when she grows up.  I said, "Like Chesley and Sherri? Is it because you like girls better than boys?" to which she responded, "YEP!!"

Steel announced tonight at dinner that she likes Ryan F. because he's funny and tall.  The only thing she doesn't like about him are his teeth.  He's tall because he was held back a year, his teeth are crooked, and he's got a thick Philly accent...great.

When Toby is cranky, I give her a mop.  Sometimes a project will pull Steel out of a funk; she's crafty. We spent and entire snow day turning an old cashmere sweater into a stuffed animal for her new cousin, Avery.  Sometimes, though, Steel needs to have a meltdown.  On our last day on the mountain, Steel and Toby skied with Betsey and Anne because JP and I were not "doing the trees" on our snowboards. On the last run of the last day Steel went ass over tea kettle on the flats at the end of the run.  Jack Peter and I arrived on the scene a few minutes after the fall.  Betsey was insisting that Steel needed an x-ray.  "She's dislocated her shoulder!" Look at the way she's carrying her arm!"  I let Betsey put her own stuff in her locker while I assessed the arm situation.  I know I err on the side of laissez-faire parenting, but with this one, I knew Steel was just fine.  She was ever-so-slightly dramatizing the immobility of her arm. Like Grandma Girly, Steely just needs to have a "poor spell."  Grandma Girly would generally be tough as nails, but all of a sudden, she'd fall apart.  Everyone around her would coddle her and give her attention, and after an hour or so of this, she'd be FINE.

Both girls have been harrowed by an incident down the street.  Two sisters were playing in the snow, and a man pulled up in his car and asked them to get in.  The sisters screamed at the top of their lungs and ran home.  I talked about it with both Steel and Toby, and we discussed action plans if someone were to approach them on the way to the neighbor’s house.  They keep bringing it up.  “Mommy what would happen if we were close to Bob’s house?   Would we run to his house or to Kathy’s or to our house???”  I'm glad they are planning for it.  They both are so much more self-possessed than I was at their age.  

While Toby is questioning public radio programming, Steel is critiquing her gymnastics coaching.  She had the head coach, Coach K.  As a kid I responded very well to being yelled at and being told that I wasn't doing a good job; this does not work for Steel. Coach K told Steel her performance on the trampoline was "junky."  Steel held it together for class, but she broke down in the car.  She told me that Coach K isn't nice, and that doesn't inspire her to do better, and she doesn't want to stick with gymnastics if she has Coach K.  I had a completely neurotic piano teacher who levitated herself and her enormous breasts off of the bench in a weird twitch every time I hit a wrong note.  I had a field hockey coach who would throw things at us, and a latin teacher who allowed herself to be locked in the closet by 8th grade boys.  I questioned none of this.

Toby, by the way, does not seem as concerned with her appearance.  She has the feeling that she isn’t skinny, but she seems to think that Steel is handling the skinny part for our family, so she’s off the hook.  She did insist that my cousin Anne carry her mittens for her when she got too hot on the ski slope.  Anne had suggested Toby tuck them into the pockets of her snow pants.  Toby refused: "NO!!!! it'll make me look FAT!!"  Maybe I should feel depressed about that, but I'm going to try and not worry about it for now.  Tim is a little worried.  We were just at the movies, and Toby was comparing her thighs to Steel's on the booster seat.  "Mommy!  Steel's thighs are skinnier than mine are!!!!"  I told her that Steel's thighs were probably her size when she was 6.  I waited until the movie started to say, "Toby, your thighs are perfect the way they are.  What am I supposed to say to Steel when she gets upset and tells me that her nose is so much bigger than Toby's is???"  Toby said after a long pause, "I don't know."

And then there's Jack Peter.  Somehow, he still maintains his rockstar status with a fair number of people.  Kids get obsessed with him.  We had 2 such kids with us on Saturday.  All of us went to a carnival.  A ton of school friends were there, so Jack Peter fell in with his school friends, and I got asked, "WHERE'S JACK PETER??" every 12 minutes.  One of these kids is the most gorgeous athletic kid I've ever met.  He won fish for everyone and stuffed animals for the girls.  His Dad ended up getting coerced into a nauseating swinging ship ride by his sisters and my girls.  I was feeling awful about it, and I said to the kid, "I hope your dad doesn't puke on that ride; I definitely wasn't going on it!"  Hudson replied emphatically, "My dad won't barf; he's from ALABAMA!"

Jack Peter is extremely confident.  I always worry that the sports thing is going to bring him down. In baseball, he won't swing at the ball which often results in his striking out.  He's so small that his strike zone is petite, so he walks some, but not as often as he strikes out.  I found him crying about it a week ago, and he wailed, "I'm letting my team down!"  I was heartbroken but OK with it because it was the first time I'd heard him thinking about his community as well as himself.  They had a really awful game on Saturday.  They lost 18-0.  Again, he was crying.  To console him, I gave him a cuddle and talked about how it should be fun...blah blah blah.  I said, "Jack Peter, in the grand scheme of things, this really doesn't matter.  You won't even remember this in a few weeks!"  He responded, "Grand scheme????? They got a GRAND SLAM in the first inning!!!!"  (oops)  Sports came so easily to me.  I was captain of all my teams in grammar school, high school and college.  I got so much confidence from my athletic ability.  This over-emphasizes, in my brain, the importance of JP's failures.  I get so sad and worried, but 5 minutes after he's gotten his cuddle and cry HE'S FINE.

Of course he's fine.  The only true lament in his life is his lack of screen time.  He coerced me into letting him use the computer on a winter Sunday to "start a school newspaper."  By the end of the day he had a page and a half.  His first big headline was, "TROUT DYING IN 4TH GRADE!"  He made 25 copies and distributed them at school that Monday.  He came home with a trailblazer award.  Trailblazers are the positive behavior incentives.  By Tuesday Jack Peter had a staff of 9 kids, a designated lunch table for their meetings and an administrative person committed to giving them an online presence.  

He had a great report card, a solid 4.0 average.  His teachers all seem to be plugging for him. His homeroom teacher, Mr. Sylvan, works the hardest.  JP just got a detention for sending an e-mail to a classmate, "FHST fucking sucks."  (At aftercare they have warring tribes.  The tribes have acronyms for names.  The wars involve hills, rocks, sticks. and probably a lot of obscenity screaming)  Teachers have access to all of their e-mails, and JP knew this because he's gotten in trouble before.  Tim and I couldn't believe he'd done something so stupid.  All he could say was, "I can't remember why now, but I WAS REALLY MAD at Sage."  Such a public offense had to be punished properly, but Mr. Sylvan, keeps most of JP's disciplining in his own classroom.  JP made another infraction during the standardized tests.  He had finished the test, so he got up to get a book.  Getting up at all during the test is prohibited.  His teacher slammed a book on Pugs down on JP's desk and whispered, "2 page essay...NOW!"  I sent an e-mail to the teacher thanking him for that discipline choice a. because it didn't involve detention and b. because it was the most amusing option.  He responded that the next essay is probably going to be: "The history of ketchup."  

The one major flaw with the teacher is that he hates glitter.  Who hates glitter?  Jack Peter told us that Mr. Sylvan refused to let his daughter have a gift at her 2nd birthday party that was covered in glitter.  I kept suggesting to the carpool boys that they should fill an entire desk drawer with glitter on April fool's day.  They looked at me wide-eyed and said that he'd probably suspend them.  Somehow we discovered that Mr. Sylvan's birthday was in early April, so I made him a cup with a "no glitter" sign on it.  I only put a tablespoon of glitter in the bottom beneath the bubble wrap I'd stuffed in and around it.  He thanked me, and I replied that he was welcome, but having a little girl and not being able to deal with glitter seemed slightly heartless to me.  He admitted that he won't let any of the glitter art she makes at daycare into the house.  "It's really a problem with loose glitter!" he said uncomfortably as Steel and Toby stared him down with narrowed eyes.  He's fine with glitter nail polish.  The next morning Toby, Steel and I had to go through the recycling looking for Steel's homework that I'd relocated.  They were finding masterpieces they'd created.  I'd kept them around for a while but purged on trash day.  Mr. Sylvan's heartless glitter ban came in handy.  At their indignant howls I shrieked, "I'm not as bad as Mr. Sylvan!!!!!  He won't even let that stuff INTO THE HOUSE!!!"

We probably didn't need to this year, but we extended the tradition of all-protein breakfasts during the standardized tests.  Last year JP's teacher called in a panic before the testing because she was sure he'd be kicked out of the tests.  We had to run around the block and perform 3 sun salutations on top of no-carbs breakfast.  JP asked me on Sunday night during our cuddle, "Mom, can we please not have eggs every day this week???"  I said, "No problem!  We'll have bacon on Monday, eggs on Tuesday, smoked salmon on Wednesday..."  He looked at me and said, "How is a smoking salmon going to help me with the PSSA's???"  I  laughed and pretended to be a shady smoking salmon.  Since then all of the kids will suddenly pretend to smoke a cigarette and mumble under their breath, "Pssst...hey, kid, let me help you with the PSSA's"

So Jack Peter might have a tiny anger-management issue.  He's so easy-going at the house, but every now and again he'll get really mad about something stupid like having to practice.  He got so irate one day that he started to pack up his things.  Tim and I said it would be fine if he left, but that he should bring an extra blanket because it was going to be chilly out that night.  The girls were swirling around him and us wailing like professional mourners.  They were pummeling us and screaming, "You can't let him run away!!!!!"  JP eventually backed down.  During his bedtime snuggle that night he said to me, "You wouldn't ever let me run away, would you mom?"  Tim is so much better with all of the drama.  He greets the "I don't want to practice!" with an amazing cost/benefit analysis.  He cited how much the kids have to sleep to get themselves on track versus the tiny amount they have to practice piano to fling open doors in their brains.  They listen wide-eyed and rapt.  I tell them, "You have to practice because I'M TELLING YOU TO PRACTICE, GOD DAMN IT!!!!!!"  I told this story to my mom.  She said, "I'm glad Tim's taking the time with the kids, but YOU DO SO MUCH!!!!!!, and I agree with your argument.  Those kids should practice BECAUSE YOU TOLD THEM TO!  That woman really has my back.  Happy Mother's Day, mom.

Speaking of practicing, they had their piano recital in March.  Thank God Tim's mom thinks that it might be an opportunity for them to look good.  She spends hours shopping and texting me.  All of my responses are usually wrong, but she knows this is the case and buys 10 items per kid and then returns the rejects.  Am I going to be that kind of grandmother or am I still going to bust out trash bags of moldy hand me downs that are in the loft in my studio?

Speaking of the studio,  I mentioned that I've had some kiln disasters.  I'm also finding myself procrastinating more than I remember.  I spent one morning gluing the kids school pictures to ads in a Forbes magazine that keeps arriving.  I sent them to my dad with a card telling him that I was so glad that my kids had chosen the trans-gender option on school picture day.

If I'm not procrastinating, then I'm working at an OK pace but I have to leave 2 hours after I've gotten there because there's some celebration at school or a doctor's appointment.  I did get tearful at the mother's day kindergarten party, but honestly, a better mother's day present would have been to keep my kid until the end of school, so they could all go to aftercare thus giving me an extra 4 hours of work.

I also have to spend some of my studio time texting.  One friend and I text about pissing ourselves (literally)  She just told me a great one.  She was brushing her hair fresh out of the shower, coughed and, to her daughter's horror pissed down her leg and onto the floor.  Her daughter will be thanking her.  No one ever told ME  about post-natal incontinence.  I'll just write my response to her here to give myself some more clay time tomorrow.  Last Friday was D&D night instead of piano night.  Jp had 4 boys and one girl over for D&D.  It lasted for a couple hours, and then it devolved into an outside, stomp on mom's flowers, free-for-all.  They were all running wild around our block when the dad of the ONE GIRL shows up.  I greeted him and then admitted I had NO IDEA where his daughter was.  He said, "Wow!  I've always wanted to live in one of those neighborhoods where the kids get to just run around wild."  I said nothing about the guy propositioning the little girls down the street and instead said, "THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR IS FOR SALE!!!  Move here!  It's JUST LIKE OURS!!!"  As I turned around to lead him into our house, I made a bigger-than-usual step over some  kid trash and pissed myself ever-so-slightly.  Another friend and I text about pottery and flowers, and then I have to respond to and trump other people's "bad kid" stories.  For the next 4 months the garden will consume me.  Tim calls the seed catalogues my porn.  All late winter I'd stay up late drinking and furtively ordering roses and drought-tolerant annual seeds.  No wonder I can't get anything done.  I've been looking at porn all night.

I'm still cycling in to work and having conversations in my head with famous people.  I've been telling Hillary that she needs to Obamify her voice.  She needs to have faith in modern technology and coo into the microphones.  She's straining her voice to shout, and if she's pitted against Donald, then she needs to convey to the world that this match up isn't straining her in any way because he's a dolt. She needs to refer to him as Donald, never Mr. Trump, and everything she says should be in a whisper, the same one she uses in Bill's ear to tell him to stop looking at some woman's cleavage at a fundraiser.  She also needs to lose the pearls and go for a scarf.  I get it that she's not got a great neck, but the pearls aren't working.

I've been telling Michelle Obama that she needs to stop straightening her hair and crop it really short and cool.  I was trying to come up with someone who has the hair I'm thinking about, and I googled Hannah Kilson.  She was the captain of my lacrosse team when I was a sophomore.  She'd scream, "Smoke'em SMOKER!!!" every time we'd have to do sprints.  I googled her name, and here she is. I love the internet!!!!!

I've also been having a long conversation with Donna Karan about underwear.  I've rediscovered the body suit she's famous for, but I can't, for the life of me, figure out why someone hasn't found a place for the snaps that doesn't involve my snatch.  I know it might seem diaper-esque, but can't something on the sides work? She should make compression stockings sexier.  Aren't the diabetics and pregnant ladies of the world worth some thought?  What about cool lingerie for pregnant bellies?  There are a lot of untapped markets.  I could write her campaigns for people like me..."46 and fully grey, but still rocking the lingerie!" or "was a "B," until they fed 3, now my double AA needs lingerie." I had a short talk with Pope Francis recently about his foot fetish.  All I heard for a day on NPR was that he was washing Muslim's feet for them.  Most people think, "what a humble, great man."  I know better.