Wednesday, January 25, 2017


We just visited my Dad in Florida.  He does the exact same thing with my kids as he did with my brother and me.  They do exactly what my brother and I did.  The beat goes on...
(If you don't see a video of my kids marching with my dad, then switch browsers.  Chrome works; Safari does not.)

The world according to Trump has transformed from "a disaster" to "tremendous" and  "beautiful." Who knew that the campaign slogan, "It's a disaster, and it's all HER fault" would be so successful?  The Woman's march was yesterday, and I didn't march because it conflicted with gymnastics and play dates.  Seeing the jubilant pussy posts on Facebook has made me remorseful and weepy.  Instead, I spent most of the day on my hands and knees scouring the girls' newly re-arranged room.  I found 11 single earrings, over 20 fake nails, and 65 legos; I also fed the hermit crab and changed the sludgy green water in the fish tank.  This did not fill me with hope, solidarity and inspiration.

On November 8, I went to bed at 9:23 confident that Hillary would win in a landslide.  At 2 am I woke up worried about the kiln I was firing.  Knowing I wouldn't sleep well, I got up to drive to the studio and check on the kiln.  I learned that Donald Trump was our President elect in the car. My kiln had turned off in the night.  I caught it before it cooled off enough to ruin the entire firing.  I'm wondering if the collective angst of everyone I love woke me up.  Do I have Donald to thank for a passable kiln load of work?

The extent to which I'm out of touch is my big issue.  It's especially wretched to talk to minority friends.  All of them, unlike me, were not surprised by the outcome of the election.  You'd think multiple cop shootings of unarmed black men might've hinted to me that all was not well.  I thought there were small pockets of racism and sexism.  I didn't realize that I'm in the pocket.  I've been wrestling with the whole issue of race. I've chosen to raise my kids in the city because I like a diverse, bustling environment. I hope that their exposure to different races, socioeconomic levels, and religions keeps them open-minded.

My Godchildren are at a public school outside of Philly in one of the best school districts in Pennsylvania.  Hope's best friend, Tula, is one of the few brown people in the school, and Cyros has one brown kid on his lacrosse team.  These kids are all from a similar socio-economic group, so there is no barrier to their relating to each other.  Is the urban choice backfiring?  My spoiled kids have very little in common with the 60,000 kids in Philadelphia who live in extreme poverty-most of whom are African American.  I was talking about this to another Philly parent who has 5 boys.  His kids go to a charter school down town. He was driving the kids to school, and a bunch of boys piled in front of and on his car when he was about to accelerate at a green light.  He narrowly missed hitting two of them, and he muttered "ANIMALS!" under his breath.  His eldest son said, "Yeah, they are like that in class as well."  Dad was referring to kids who ignore traffic lights and bounce on the hood of his car, he wasn't happy wondering what his son meant.  He closed our conversation with, "Fuck it, we might just head to Jersey!"  

(Every time I need to contact the mother of those 5, I lovingly call her "Dumb ass."  She was dropping 2 of the sons at daycare, and they didn't want to go.  They started calling her "Stupid dumb ass mommy!"  She blew them kisses as she walked away and said,  "That's not the way to get to spend the day with me instead of going to daycare, now is it?"  I love little vignettes that make me feel we aren't the only ones raising "spirited" children.)

My kids' school is not as diverse as Philly's population would have it be were the system to be fair. Open house was at a remote convention center in Lafayette Hill that was probably difficult to access by public transportation. I checked the website daily to see when this "open day" date would be.  I also had my mother in law watch the kids when I went to the open house. So, straight away I needed a car, daily internet access, and help with childcare. Someone blew the whistle on this process, so now it's a little easier to apply, but 80% of the successful applicants now have to come from the neighborhood around the school.  It is a predominately white neighborhood, so that idea isn't going to help with racial diversity.  There is not one brown teacher or administrator in the school except for the interim CEO who, sadly, doesn't want the job full time. I chose to send them there because it's free and it has a reputation of being a great school; I didn't think about diversity at all.

We went to our local pool over the summer.  After a few minutes of waiting in line to get in, JP said, "Everyone here is brown except for us!"  I just responded, "Yeah, and you really don't need to point that out; we all just want to swim." I have no idea what being the only white people means to him.  All I know is that there won't be those long clingy white girl hairs all over the pool as there are in Northern Liberties which makes me happy.  My dad keeps telling the same joke about how successful his cataract surgery was.  The punchline is:  "The only weird thing about it is that I was looking at an old picture album, and it turns out my ex-wife was black!"  Has he ever gotten a laugh from that one???? He tells it after the one about Monica Lewinsky getting a position in the mythical Hillary Clinton administration as the Head of Internal Affairs. My Dad also greeted my beautiful 15-year-old goddaughter at 8 in the morning with the words, "Hope! Don't you look SEXY!"  (I texted her mom and got a 1-word response, "GROSS!")  I don't understand his need to say things like that.  Are those jokes going to die with his generation?  Is it really possible that people voted for Donald Trump because they hated having a BLACK MAN at the helm? 

Then again, my friend Patrece sent me this picture of her tiny self on a massive chair.  My response was, "OMG!  you need to get yourself made into a doll and market yourself as the brown elf on the shelf!"  Is that any different from my Dad's dumb joke?  I just googled "brown elf on a shelf" and a very faintly tinted "boy scout elf" came up.  At first I thought, there's a real window here for a Patrece-like elf, but then it occurred to me that Pisces Patrece might be too conspiratorial to be a good elf on the shelf.  As a kid, you'd get the feeling that if you gave her a wink, she might not tell Santa ALL of the bad things.  The tattle-tailing, whistle-blowing boy scout elf would get the job done.

Is all of my anxiety about the issue because we are so WHITE, and so many white people seem to suck right now?  My attempts to combat racism feel hilarious.  Will knowing the names of the brown kids and chatting with the parents on my kids' sports teams ensure that my kids don't turn out to be bigoted assholes?  I have no idea, but it's all I can think of to do. It does seem that although Mt. Airy baseball is a bastion of diversity, the white families end up knowing the white kids and the black families know the black kids.  I'm embarrassed about how hard the names are for me: James and female Avery have JayLIN; Matthew has JayDEN, Gil and Lisa are grandparents to Jamir but they are parents to 4-year-old Adnan which is only memorable because the guy in prison in the "Serial" podcast is also named Adnan.  Jamir's mom is an "M" name that might be Malia but probably isn't because that's Obama's daughter, but now that we are into the "M's," Micah belongs to Miguel. Rashid has male Avery.  The white kids names are just as brutal, but they are so much easier for me.  Nikki, Nino, Nicholas, Max, Sam and JP are no problem. Dads are Joe, Jason, Dante and Tim. I wonder sometimes if my aggressive name-knowing has done nothing except make those brown kids wonder who the hell is that distracting, cheering white lady with the pink hair???  (JP actually complemented me the other day about how much he loves that I talk to people I don't know all the time.  He said it "makes things fun." :)

For the most part my conversations with people reveal that they are exactly like me, but I did have an interesting one with Jaylin's Dad, James.  I was recounting a conversation I'd had with one of the dads on Jaylin's spring ball team.  It was a particularly lousy game, and the dad was saying to me that he thought that kids who aren't really good and serious about baseball shouldn't be playing because they bring the level down for the kids who are.  That man was telling me that my kid shouldn't be playing.  James laughed and said, "Well that's Aaron.  He played pro ball, and he doesn't see another path for his boys. That's just his point of view."  "OH!!!"  I responded. "Maybe that's why he seemed to be thinking that I was hitting on him."  (because all professional athletes must think that way, right liz???)  James said, laughing, "yeah, that's Aaron!"  Aaron had made a point after talking for about 15 minutes of saying, "that woman over there is my WIFE!" to which I merrily/awkwardly responded, "Oh! great, and the assistant coach is my HUSBAND!"  I guess my attempts at inter-racial socializing went a little awry there.

My cute husband and Toby, the only beer-loving kid bottling his first batch of home brew.

All of our parenting choices end up setting us apart from other people or bringing us together with those who make similar choices.  Aaron prioritizes athleticism, discipline and seriousness. My brother's family puts intelligence above all.  They refer to the religious families in their communities as "thumpers,"  because they Bible thump.  The "trogs."  (troglodytes)  are the narrow-minded idiots.  They are big fans of the "Darwin Awards" (when dumb people get injured or killed doing stupid stuff.)  My Toby is constantly categorizing people based on their levels of health.  She'll come home horrified that a kid was eating a "lunchable" or she'll ask me with some trepidation, "Mom, is so-and-so healthy????"  I'm sure JP has "parents allow unlimited screen time" as a major delineation in his head.  I served a huge spiral-cut ham at my last open studio. That decision was made, on the fly, at Trader Joe's with the help of ham-loving Jennifer whose husband has never eaten a mammal.  She sees her time with me as an opportunity to catch up on lost pork.  The 4-year-old son of friends made a b-line for the ham the instant he walked in shouting "YUM!!!!  Ham!" to which the bewildered dad looked at us and said, "We're vegetarians!  What the hell does he know about ham???"  

This pair of overalls came from Santa to healthy Toby, the amazing worker.  She was bizarrely thrilled

Today I asked Steel's friend, Aurora's mom how she identifies herself and her children.  There are 7 kids and 2 grandkids in the mix.  She's Puerto Rican, Native American, Dutch and Irish.  One dad is Greek.  I'm not sure about the other.  Amani is pretty non-committal about race. She refers to the eldest kid as, "my black son" because he identifies as black.  She does it with irony, though, because he is the whitest of all 7 kids. When he was little, he asked her if she was his mom.  She said, "yes!"  He said, "You have color?" She said, "yes" He then asked, "So, is my color on the inside????"   Her main response to my questions was: "People are allowed to be transgender now, so I think we should be able to be trans-race as well, don't you?"  Her family looks like a Benetton ad, so it's just not an issue.  She actually responded to my question initially by saying, "Geez  I don't KNOW how the 3 middle ones identify.  I'll have to ask them!"

I was listening to an NPR thing about a professor at Westchester University who has been using genetic testing to "break boundaries and bring people together." The program depressed me because it highlighted how all of us have these ridiculous hierarchies in our minds about genes.  I know I am baselessly proud that I might have native american genes.  I like the Scandinavian ones too. Both of those cultures seem more egalitarian and socialist, so I can feel inherently lefty and liberal.  I'm not fond of the German genes because I've met so many Germans who laugh really loudly at things that aren't funny and then there's the Holocaust.  It had also never occurred to me that the African Americans have to process being the products of both rapees and rapers. I'd given the victim part some thought but never the aggressor part.  That was depressing a. because I'm so stupid to have not considered it and b. because that fact sucks.  Why can't we all be like Aurora's mom, Amani, and not give a shit!!! 

I was driving last week and listening to Jeff Bridges on Fresh Air.  They played the scene in "The Big Lebowski" where Bridges is talking to the other Lebowski demanding that he take responsibility for his urinated-on carpet.  The logic is flawed, but it didn't stop me from e-mailing Terry Gross and telling them that in the spirit of the interview, I should be reimbursed for the huge gash I sliced through the back third of my mini van when I side-swiped a utility vehicle because I was so engrossed in the interview (enGROSSED...gET IT?????) I took my car to Rafiq.  He's the guy with the garage who has helped me, not once, but twice with a flat on my bike.  I said I didn't want the gash fixed, but I wanted to make sure the panel didn't come flying off at some point. Rafiq's guy, Stan, just put a screw through it...perfect!  I'm pretty sure Stan thinks I've got a FEW screws loose, but oh well.  Rafiq and I are facebook friends.  He'd put a call out for everyone to pray for his brother.  There was no explanation just that he was in a bad way.  I asked Rafiq if his brother was better.  My assumption was that it was probably a drugs or alcohol because that's always what it seems to be when nothing is specified. Rafiq is MUSLIM... His brother has MS and has gotten to the point that he needs a feeding tube.  Did I assume drugs because he's black or because drugs and alcohol are usually the problem with MY friends?  I always want to invite Rafiq for dinner because I like him, and his son is JP's age, but then I wonder if that would be weird and if I'd do something stupid like put sherry in the soup or cook with bacon fat which is what I did when I first cooked for my Muslim boyfriend and his also-Muslim friends in San Francisco or if Rafiq would be horrified by how much wine I drink with dinner. I'm sure I wouldn't feel comfortable inviting Rafiq over yet if he were a white WASP.  A few more flat tires on my bike (I'm a flat-tire-making savant; it's my secret super power) and a few more fender benders, and Rafiq's family and ours will be vacationing together.

We had a car renting feud last weekend that maybe touched on race and definitely involved the other thing I hate about the Trump  A lot of voters assume that Donald Trump will help all of us become rich like him.  It's absurd on so many levels-not the least of which being how rich we have been living in the democracy that he is now dismantling.  

I made an unwise decision to rent a car online without doing a search for reviews of "Economy rent a car" in Orlando. Such a search would have revealed 0 stars from multiple reviewers. We arrived with the 3 kids to a line out the door.  Two women huffed by telling us to not even bother and that it's a scam.  They were right.  The scam is to require people to buy the insurance provided by Economy rent a car for $140. The only way to avoid this is to have the declarations page from ones insurance policy in hand. We had time to get this emailed during the 2-hour wait. We did, however, have to give them $1000 hold on our credit card that would not be returned for 2 weeks.  If we didn't have that, we could pay $45 to get a $200 hold.  All of this information was delivered by beautiful women wearing really tight, short red dresses, impeccable jewelry, hair, and make-up, black stockings and very high heels. They all had the same, canned responses to the protestations that none of this was revealed on the internet, etc.  They did not have the car we ordered, but they had something that would do, and we'd waited too long to care.  It was pouring outside.  My bedraggled, not-bothering-to-google-reviews-on-this-way-too-cheap-rental-car friends were gathered under a flimsy awning to inspect, sign off and drive away in their crappy, temporary cars.

The kids were great at inspecting.  JP found dents and problems Tim and I wouldn't have noticed.  We signed off, and Tim shouted at the kids to pile in the back and buckle up.  They couldn't get in.  The back door opened neither from outside or inside the car.  I wanted the door flaw to be written on the initial papers, so I trotted back in. Tim, being smarter and more thoughtful than I, said, "No! if we get in an accident, our kids can't get out of the back of the car! Get us another car!"  We got a manager, and he said there was nothing he could do.  We could come back tomorrow morning and work out a discount and MAYBE get a new car.  He was not authorized to do anything, and there were no more cars.  I just wanted to get out of there.  I said, "Will you at least write this down on the original inspection of the car???" He said, "yes, I'll go write something up."  I sarcastically said, "Great, go do that!" I honestly did not think I was being that rude, but the guy turned on his heel and said, "I'm not doing anything for you!"  I was shocked and said, "I feel sorry for you; this is such a horrible, soul-crushing job!"  He looked me in the eye and said, "You wouldn't feel horrible for me if you saw my paycheck; it's a GREAT job!"  I don't meet people who are solely motivated by money in that way.  I was speechless. Tim said, "Fine, we'll just sit here then!"  "Let me know if you need sleeping bags!"  the guy muttered as he walked away.  At this point the kids have been shrieking in terror in the back of the car for 5 straight minutes, "Let me out!  Let's take an UBER!" "You're being mean!" Steel is spearheading the hysteria. I had to shout in my best Susie voice, "If you don't stop screaming this minute, you will not have a play date with ANYONE until the summer!"

So bad cop left and good cop came to tell us politely that we would have to move because we were creating a bottleneck.  Tim said, "I'm not going anywhere until you get me another car." and closed the window to the sheets of rain.  The guy left for another 5 minutes while we talked to the kids about standing up for yourself and the difference between rude and strong.  The guy came back and said, "OK, I'll get you another car; it's coming up next"  At this point, the whole place is in turmoil.  Cars are skidding around in the rain to get past us.  There's a headlight on the ground from a skirmish earlier in the day. You'd think people would be turning on us, but everyone was on our side.  We got our stuff out of the car and waited.  The next car was not for us; nor was the next.  Another guy came and asked Tim for the key to the car we'd left.  Tim said, "Oh no!  that's MY car!  I won't give you the key until you give me another car."  The manager said, "Sir, you can't do that!"  Tim replied, "Yes, I can.  It's called LEVERAGE!"  Tim is always up to fight the good fight.  It can sometimes seem like he's needlessly raising his blood pressure.  Other times it's just so sexy when he won't back down.  We got a car with functioning doors and drove away.  The return went smoothly, and hopefully the $1000 hold will end as it's supposed to. Our kids learned a good lesson about standing up for yourself and others in the face of unfairness.  

I, however, am still rattled.  Tim says the guy turned on me because when I said, "Go do that" what he heard was, "Go do that BOY!"  He was bald and light-skinned; he could have been any number of ethnicities.  I was furious with the whole situation, but race was nowhere on my radar, and I'm horrified that I could have been understood in that way.  I still can't get over the idea that all of those young, beautiful men and women can be content working at a place where taking advantage of people is in the business plan.  Donald Trump embodies this sort of abject greed.  Greed is the most shameful of the sins in my opinion, and Trump's election tells me that greed has become something to admire.  When did "me/America first" replace "liberty and justice for ALL?"

Another thing about Trump's election that drives me NUTS is that my friend Heather's bigoted brother in law WON.  I brought Theo and the kids to the shore for the day in the summer. Heather's nephews were Theo's age, so I thought it'd be fun for him to get some kid time and go to the boardwalk.  My kids were in front of a movie which left me hanging out with a bunch of Republicans.  I had noticed the wipe board in the kitchen said, "Life's a bitch; let's not have one for President."  This guy is from Fairfield, Connecticut.  I didn't know they HAD racist people in New England.  He, too, made fun of the handicapped reporter whom Trump mocked.  He actually clapped his hands at the prospect of "the wall," and at my brief explanation of the "black lives matter" movement, he responded that I just don't understand "where he's coming from."  He calmly explained to me that he's coming from the point of view that the "situation of the entire continent of Africa" is proof to him that people of African descent are inferior.  

The beat goes on... The first thing his son, a freshman at Boston College, asked Theo was, "So, you're from Montreal.  Are there a lot of colored people there?"  to which Theo slowly and deliberately replied, "It's very multi-cultural; which is how I like it."  Rene was so happy to have someone to witness the horror of his brother in law.  Rene asked the group if they would consider taking small a financial hit for the betterment of society.  All of these spoiled adults who are staying at their parents beautiful shore houses, replied, "No. The money will just get wasted."  I had long since been speechless.  Rene ended the conversation with, "Let's just get this straight: Hillary WILL be our next president, and, like Barak Obama, she WILL go down in history as one of our most successful presidents. :( 
I'm heartbroken.

Now in Trump fashion I'll list things that have happened in the past 6 months that were not disasters, but I'll call them disasters, so that this blog post feels cohesive.  Picture day: I anticipated 2 out of 3 being disasters; I was wrong.  First of all, a blind person could do a better job than the school photographers.  They are pretending that the world isn't digital.  If I took photograph of an incredibly cute kid that looked like the top right picture, I'd take another. Steel wore leggings, her t-shirt that said, "I woke up like this," and her wedge-heeled leopard-print ankle boots. I didn't allow her to put her little, tiny, spandex gymnastics shorts on top of the whole thing, but she still looked like a hooker.  (I know, she looks fine!) JP eschewed his normal, picture day, 3-piece suit for under armour, shorts, and dark grey socks.  (He's thrilled with his.  He thinks he looks really OLD-at least 12!) Toby risked missing the bus to run home for him and entreat that I find hairspray.  According to Steel, JP's Bad News Bears hair needed some expert Steel styling on picture day. Toby had no idea what to wear. I put out some dresses for her, and she picked one to match her sparkly butterfly top.  She asked for a french braid, and put a bow directly on top of her head; she did not look like a hooker. She's not too cool yet.  (Apparently my french braid was swiftly dismantled on the bus.) We recently opened a box of hand-me-downs.  Steel turned up her nose at all of them.  Toby gleefully grabbed these get ups and put them on.  I thought she'd need fake eyelashes, a huge up doo, or at least a vodka tonic to pull off that floral Ann Margaret number, but no.

Toby had her 7th birthday party in October.  7 is too old for bounce houses; she wanted an inflated slide. We went out and measured the lawn late one night (which is how we caught Rocky pooping by moonlight in the kale patch)  The fire truck was the only one that was narrow enough to fit.  Tall, narrow-based, inflatable slides are death traps.  This one was tethered to the house, so it didn't lean over and deposit the kids 2 stories down onto Idell Street.  Instead, when too many kids were up top, it would careen into the house to a deafening chorus of terrified children confronting their mortality. We had a stubbed toe gushing blood, a twisted ankle, skin burns, a fall from the loft of the tree house, quite a few battles over presents and who would be playing with whom.  The "make your own sundae" idea went over pretty well.  They are still able to hear their little bodies say, "ENOUGH." (unlike me with a bottle of wine)  "I will never force anyone finish a bowl of ice cream" was my response to their apologetic little faces as they handed over the half-eaten glop for me to discard. Tim spent the entire party outside monitoring the fire truck slide.   I just got up from writing and noticed that the floor is moving.  It's ants.  I wonder if there is a half-eaten sundae under the couch.  The "disaster" verdict is still out.

(Cindy Loo Hoo is in white with the pencil in her mouth....adorable)

We had Steel's birthday party in the summer.  She wanted a slumber party, and I told her that October is too crazy for a slumber party, so we'd bump her birthday up to August.  It was looking manageable when a couple friends couldn't come.  Steel, then invited 3 friends from her old Northern Liberties life, and it became unmanageable again.  All of her friends are either Scorpios (like her) or Virgos (like her dad) or Sagittarians. (like me)  I take this as proof that she loves us and herself.  Steel wanted to give everyone make overs.  She also wanted to be the ONLY aesthetician.  She was a wreck.  Some kids were interested and felt she wasn't giving them enough time.  Some were bored and wanted to do something else.  Steel is addicted to fake nails.  They aren't cheap, and they involve super-toxic glue which "it's got to be organic" mom should not allow. They end up all over the house, but I can't control the fake-nail loving beast.  She took the "buy 2, get 1 free" sale on nails as a sign from the gods that she should buy fake nails for everyone.  

We thought we'd gotten them all to bed by 11, but by 12 one of the girls was in tears and insisting I call her mom.  I lay down with her on the bed, and she calmed down.  I dozed off and woke to the smallest guest hovering over Steel and shout-whispering Steel's name.  I jolted up.  Every minute that Steel was asleep was a minute without irrational melt downs in the next month, so I really didn't want this little girl waking her up.  I shriek-whispered, "What do you NEED?????"  to which this little one, who will forever be named "Cindy loo who" in my head, responded, "I need a drink of water!"  In the unlikely event that I allow another sleepover I will make sure everyone has a tiny little water bottle by her side.

Speaking of disasters, we had a rough visit to New England last summer.  First of all, it was 47 degrees and rainy for the first week.  We did sand candles, make-your-own marshmallow shooters out of plumbing supplies and a bunch of other projects.  I was in charge of my 3 and my brother's 2.  It seemed that my mom was much more easily annoyed with the noise and chaos.  No one agrees with me about this.  All kids said, "Grandma Susie is ALWAYS like that!"  Which means that I now can't handle my mom's annoyance with the noise and the chaos...(is this pre-menopausal thing?  I wonder that about EVERYTHING now) My answer was to load all 5 into the minivan and go visit my friend, Tanya, in Maine to give Susie a break.  The two problems with this solution were 1. my nephew, Owen gets violently car sick, and 2. Tanya has 4 kids and her chaos makes mine look tame.  Her second child, Bear,  wasn't there.  I had to be content with his school picture.  I will call him Bearrah Fawcett here forward. 

I now understand the hype about Maine.  It's like Massachusetts minus the Country Clubs and the annoying people with the addition of hot lobstermen with cool accents-one of whom is so in love with Tanya, he took ALL 8 kids and a kitten out on his boat.  Tanya had just let her oldest come home with a new kitten to add to the shoe-eating dog and blueberry-shitting bunny. Tanya makes me feel normal; this is rare.  Owen survived.  He popped out of the car and puked only once.  He is an "Olympic puker." When we went on the whale watch last summer, he never missed the trash can.  When his family arrived in Philly on their way back from Florida, he puked onto my neighbor's grass.  My only complaint is he chose the impeccable neighbor's grass to puke on; I've cringed whenever I've walked by the wee bald spot-singed by Owen's stomach acid, but at least it wasn't in the car.  

I just had insight on my mother's kid-tolerance levels.  We decided to have our post-Christmas family get-together in Philly.  Curt, puking Owen, Gillian, Jana, and Kellen drove 16 hours up the day after Christmas.  My mother was ecstatic.  She said, "Oh great! Now I don't have to drive to Florida, and when I get sick of everyone, I can just GO HOME."  See!  We are more annoying to her than we used to be.

We have spent the last 6 months fixing up a house to flip.  I use the word "we" pretty loosely.  I worked for 2 weeks in the summer scraping wallpaper from the ceilings in 97 degree weather.  Shaina, my lovely assistant, is 5'1, so she got the lower half of wallpaper stripping.  How to make someone appreciate her job?  Have them strip wallpaper for a month.  Yes, she kept at it 2 weeks longer than I.  We both would look like we just walked off of the set of "Les Miserables" every time we left.  That was my contribution to the project.  If we make money on the house, then I guess it won't be a disaster, but adding to Tim's already-full plate seems dim-witted at best.  The best thing about the project is that it allowed us to get rid of our food-freezing fridge.  We spent $91,000 on a house to justify buying a fridge.  I was also coveting the old wall-mounted pencil sharpener, but that seems to have disappeared. The annoying thing is that it has turned out so beautiful.  It has made me wish that we had a house with light streaming through it and beautiful floors and a brand new kitchen.  Hopefully the fridge will perform better in this new environment or the new owners will not be produce eaters, so they won't care about slightly frozen food.

I still don't have my shit together enough to have anything nice like that.  We trash everything.  Today I've watched the kitten whack the blooms off of the orchid, dump mail on the floor, and play the piano with sticky paws for longer than I would have thought would interest her. I had the kids all weekend while Tim was gone.  They each got to have a friend over.  Steel busted out the snow cone making machine she got for Christmas. There are blue rasberry, cherry and grape rings all over the place.  I'm sure soft scrub or bleach would get rid of them, but I can't be bothered.  Last time everyone had play dates over, I attempted making lye soap.  All of the caveats about soap making involve "respecting the lye."  They all say things like, just make sure you don't have pets and children running around when you're working with lye. I had just dumped my soap mixture into the molds which were volcanoing all over the place because I did something wrong.  There were 6 children running around, and then my neighbor stopped by with her Shitzu who took off after the cat.  It was textbook disastrous.  No one was blinded, and the soap is pretty nice if you don't care how it looks.  One of our friends is a hunter and shot a bear.  He said that more than half of the bear was fat.  He stripped the fat and left it because he couldn't carry it.  I've been obsessing about making bear fat soap ever since. 

How cute is Steel's first 24-hour boyfriend? and a Sagittarius to boot

So JP is spending most of his time looking forward to his 2-day 5th grade sex ed class this spring. He's got a lot to learn.  He suggested one evening that a stick covered with spider webs would make a great, in the woods, emergency tampon.  Steel had her first 1-day relationship with the cutest boy in her class.  At the end of the day she told him that she just isn't ready for a boyfriend.  He asked if they could still like each other, and they left it at that.  Toby got a drivable truck for Christmas that is black like her father's. Watching her careen around in it is worth every penny and every inch of garage space that her dad mourns.  Tim is building again which has him out at 5 every morning.  He's on fire, happy and invigorated.  This is great except that all of the morning yelling about getting up, eating, brushing teeth/hair, packing bags and missing the bus is on me.  I'm a wreck by 7:45.  I've upgraded my Pandora music account, so I don't have to listen to advertisements.  I put "Boston Baroque" on in the morning because I grew up listening to Robert J Lurzuma playing baroque music on NPR.  It's taken the edge off a little.  "Duke Ellington Radio" has made the evening routine a ton more enjoyable.

Thanks guys.  Honesty isn't always the best policy.

I realize I am both boob and race obsessed.  I fell into a Facebook hole about how few women wear bras that fit. You had to fill out a questionnaire about your bra problems.  Mine are: gathering because there's nothing there to fill the cup and straps falling off when I make pottery because the bras are trying to tell me that they are living an unfulfilled life.  I had to choose my breast shape from images.  I was going to pick "athletic." Steel and Tim calmly corrected my choice.  Apparently I'm in between "relaxed" and "east west."  I did end up with a bra that seems to like its job more. In yet another humbling moment about my appearance, I had to get my license renewed.  I was looking forward to it because my last picture was terrible.  I was pregnant with some poor, flawed fetus.  I'd waited with the kids for 2 hours, and I'd not bothered with a brush or make up.  This time I decided to get it done on a day that I was just too cold to make pots in the studio.  I primped, and headed to DMV on my bike in the rain.  In the 66 minutes between my arrival and my picture, I'd been scrolling through Facebook with my parka on in a room that was 104 degrees.  The picture looks like I'd just run a marathon in under 2 hours-drunk. That old license is now looking pretty good. 

I'm still making pottery, but I probably need to market my work a little more which I do not love.  I've been making pots that need assembly for Shaina to put together because I really don't have much for her to do at the moment.  I was reading an article about Heath Ceramics combining with Tartine Bakery in San Francisco to make this amazing store. The article said, "They wanted to do something humble, but in an elevated way"  Maybe it's sour grapes because I'm not in San Francisco anymore selling pottery, pastries and bear fat soap in a trendy venue, but "doing something humble in an elevated way" sounds as puke-worthy as blowing Donald Trump.