Sunday, December 30, 2007

feeling guilty

Iris left about ten days ago to go to California to visit her half-sister, who is in her thirties and about five years older than her mother. (Have I ever mentioned that Iris' dad was in his late 50s when he and Sonia, who was then 18, got bizz-ay? Or that Iris lived with him for the first seven years of her life because Sonia was having some drug issues? Or that he died of brain cancer and that's how she ended up with her mom? I don't think so.)

Sonia accompanied Iris, which is strange to me. I mean, can you imagine that woman in an airport? On an airplane? With the guy in the seat to her right accidentally brushing her elbow with his elbow, and her having to "communicate" with him because he wasn't respecting her "boundaries" and her needing to have her personal space "honored"? Or her getting upset with the flight attendant for not telling her to please buckle her seatbelt? (Have I ever mentioned that once, when our neighbor Pixie asked Sonia if Iris could come out to play, Sonia said, "I'd really appreciate it if you said, 'Please,' and that once, when Pixie's dad said to Sonia, as they were arranging some time for Iris to hang out with them so Sonia could go and say her Hare Krishnas, "Well, okay, just give me a call," she told him, "I'd really appreciate it if you said, 'Please'"? I don't think so.)

So anyway, she's been gone all this time and I have to say, it's kind of nice not having her around. I didn't realize how much stress she has added to my life. Of course, I recognized that Sonia was making things a wee bit crazy for me. But I'm talking about Iris. I used to wonder when she was going to come over on her compost run, or whether she was going to stop over on her way back from the bus stop. And now? Now all I feel is relief.

And guilt.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

that counts, right?

On the last day of school before vacation several eternities ago last week, Ezra came home with a calendar on which I--with his involvement--was supposed to keep track of the exercise he had gotten each day. There were suggested activities for the family for each day that I could circle--a 20-minute walk, a game of baseball, calisthenics (especially fun--who doesn't love a jumping jack?). There was also room to describe any "other exercise" if that game of baseball, for example, never got off the ground.

I really do applaud the school's efforts to get everyone off their fat asses encourage physical activity, end childhood obesity, and facilitate quality family time. And I really did want to fill out the form because I want Ezra to get an A+ in life, and at the very least, get into Harvard to give Ezra a sense of accomplishment.

Yet I found it too frustrating to keep up with. I mean, when your kid is on the move more or less the entire day, and yet none of the activity can be technically characterized as "sport" or "exercise," you feel foolish telling the truth, which would look something like this: Played Power Rangers on playground with his brother (20 minutes)...rapidly punched his father's gut (30 seconds)...jumped to floor from top bunk (10 minutes)...played Secret Agent with his brother throughout three floors of home (25 minutes)...temper tantrum (10 minutes).

I gave up on the form, but not before listing thumb wrestling as Monday's activity. Ezra, Levi, and I had kind of a round robin thing going on the couch for a while there, which was awesome, until finally I had to throw in the towel because my thumb was screaming. And my god, I was so sore the next day. Middle age is hitting me hard.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

a logical mind at work

About a year ago, Ezra went through a phase where all he ever thought about was flying. That boy wanted to fly so badly he could taste it. He was constantly rigging wings and capes and parachutes for himself out of paper napkins, masking tape, pillowcases, cardboard boxes, string, balloons, and anything else that struck his fancy, physics be damned, and then jumping off of various pieces of furniture and asking, "Did you see me that time? Did you see me fly?" (Sometimes, "Yes, I did!" was the right answer and sometimes, as it turned out, it was the worst answer you could possibly give him and the right answer was actually, "That was a great jump off the coffee table, but people can't really fly." Of course, he never let you know ahead of time.)

After hearing about his obsession, my mom sent a couple of homemade capes in the mail (one for Ezra and one for Levi, who wasn't especially interested in flying but had to have everything his brother had and she didn't want to be responsible for bloodshed); essentially, they were big tee-shirts with the fronts cut out of them. Unfortunately, the flying fad died in our household soon after the capes arrived and nobody ever gave them a second thought.

This morning, I found one of the capes at the bottom of my dresser drawer. (No, really, I did just find it there! I swear I've never worn it myself! I have no idea how it ended up there because I thought I had hidden it with the handcuffs and nipple clamps in that other drawer!) When I showed it to the boys, Levi immediately grabbed it and put it on, and then wore it for the rest of the day. (He still has no interest in flying per se; his delusions revolve around being a superhero and getting the bad guys, which sometimes does require flight.)

Tonight, as we climbed the stairs this evening, he announced that he was going to put it on over his pajamas and wear it to bed too.

My first instinct was not to let him. Can I tell you why? Because I immediately thought of E. from The Incredibles and her long list of superheroes who had died all because of their capes. "No capes!" she insists, and while I'll concede that she probably wasn't offering parenting advice, taking care of our kids is hard and we get guidance wherever we find it.

So I had this image of Levi getting sucked into some kind of secret vortex in his bunk bed, but at the same time it had been a long day and I was alone with the kids and things were running unusually smoothly and I just didn't want to mess anything up. And besides, the sane part of me was pretty certain no ill could come of it. So I let him.

But after I put him to bed, I kept having these lingering doubts. My four-year-old sleeping in a cape--I just knew I'd sleep better if he wasn't wearing it. So I figured I could take the cape off before I went to bed. Two possible outcomes: a) he wakes up and starts freaking out about his cape and then takes forever to get back to sleep, guaranteeing a crappy day for all of us tomorrow; or b) he doesn't wake up.

If b, two possible outcomes: 1. he stirs around dawn and rouses himself enough to notice that THE CAPE IS GONE, and is so worked up that he can't get back to sleep, guaranteeing a crappy day for all of us; or 2. he sees the cape hanging next to his bed and gets up to put it back on, which means that he's done sleeping, guaranteeing a crappy day for all of us.

I think I'll just let him sleep in the damn cape.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

found out the hard way

It turns out that even Jewish kids get upset when they ask if Santa is real and their parents tell them the truth. Very upset.

Monday, December 24, 2007

soreness haiku

Yoga again, but
Too many months have gone by.
Pigeon pose, Advil.

(I've been reading hilarious and/or poignant haiku all over the blogosphere, but for some reason, this one inspired me.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

lowest common denominator

Levi and Lilah were sitting quietly side by side in the car on the way home from school today when all of a sudden, Lilah yelled, "Shut up, Levi!"

"Mommy," Levi said, in that self-righteous, sing-song voice he and Ezra use exclusively for ratting. "Lilah said, 'Shut up.'"

This was my first thought, and I had to catch myself before saying it out loud: But Lilah, he wasn't even talking!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

crap, I think he's onto me

Earlier this evening, as Levi was finishing his dinner of raw cabbage (I'm not kidding, he took one bite of the very delicious quiche I made and then devoured about half a head of chopped cabbage doused in balsamic vinaigrette), Ezra was running around chasing the giant exercise ball that has become the toy du jour.

"Hey, Levi," he said, passing by. "Wanna play Power Rangers when you're done?"

"How about when Levi is done," I said, "you guys can play Power Rangers Take a Bath?"

Ezra scrunched his eyebrows together. "I know what you're doing!" he yelled. "You're trying to get me into the bath!"

Okay, I knew my son was smart, but I had no idea that he was genius enough to see right through such a highly sophisticated and subtle maneuver. Right through it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

for Christmas, may this woman get a lump of fragrance-free, sugar-free, gluten-free coal

Today is Iris' tenth birthday. I know this because I'm pretty good at remembering dates and also because Iris has been pretty good about reminding me. It seems girls that age can get excited about their birthdays months in advance.

(When I asked how old one of our other neighbors was upon first meeting her, she told me she was eight. And then she added with a laugh, "Well, almost nine."

"Oh," I said. "When's your birthday?"

"May," she said.

The conversation took place in September.)

Stupid Daddy and I talked for weeks about what we might do for Iris. We knew that if we got her a gift, her mom would just make her give it--or something else--away. Back when Iris was still allowed to hang out with us, we thought it would be great to take her to see a movie or go swimming--to share an experience with her that Sonia could not confiscate. But now even that was no longer an option.

Since Iris had told me last week (and I could have guessed anyway) that Sonia wasn't going to be doing anything special to mark the day, I thought I might bake some cupcakes and bring them in to school. But the weekend came and went, and all of a sudden it was last night and there were no cupcakes baked by me. I blew it.

I was relieved, then, to find out from Iris, who came over on her compost run, that her mom had baked a chocolate cake for her to bring in to school today. Relieved but also shocked. Sonia had baked a chocolate cake?

But then Iris went on to describe it. There was indeed chocolate in it, and it was round the way cakes are, but it was by no means a chocolate cake. The primary ingredient was oats. Iris didn't seem too excited about it.

Iris also wanted to know if we could make it to her school's holiday performance this morning. (Neither of us could.)

"At first my mom was going to come," she said. "But then she decided not to."

"That's too bad," I said. "Did she say why?"

"Not really. She just said she wants to wake up and be by herself tomorrow."

If it was the eve of your tenth birthday, how would you feel hearing that from your mother?

Friday, December 14, 2007

some correspondence

Deb and Alex or Alex and Deb,
I hear and choose to accept that the two of you chose not to purchase me a new mattress after your cat urinated on the one I use. I spoke with a man who sells foam mattresses at Foam and Fabric yesterday and he says the stain remover will only help take off the surface of urine and whatever has soaked through is not going to come out with stain remover. Hearing this new information I need you to reconsider and buy a new mat to replace the one I have now please.

a) So is this what "choosing to accept" our decision looks like?
b) Does it make any sense that one liquid (the urine) would soak through while another liquid (the stain remover) would not?
c) If she needs someone else to tell her the mat is soiled, is it really soiled? Cat pee is pretty unmistakable.

We never responded to this one.

A while back I heard you ask the question why is it so important to me not to have toys [meaning the very occasional ball that rolls or gets hucked from our yard and is then forgotten] in the yard [meaning the parking lot behind her house where literally the only thing people ever do is get into and out of their cars] and my answer to that is I have enough to take care of between Iris and I. I really thought about it this morning as I looked out the window to see the blue ball in the yard over here. I believe the wind blew it over and I am not angry or irritated, my point being when the toys are in the yard of the house I live in [meaning the triplex rental that she rents an apartment in] I feel the need to pick it up and for me that tends to bring up a feeling of being overwhelmed. I choose to release it.

Feeling overwhelmed by the sight of a ball; that's some hard core mental illness right there.

We didn't respond to that one either.

Deb and Alex,
A letter to inform you that one of the cats went to the bathroom on my lamp. I have chosen to give it away. I realize that the lamp is still in working condition. I find cat pee not very clean and I don't need to live with that in my house. I will appreciate the consideration of at least a $10 settlement. I mainly am writting this letter because I need to acknowledge and have the incident heard and acknowledged by you. I did not say anything at the time of the occurance simply because I did not believe it bothered me. I choose to let it go. Thank you.

a) Again with the demands--"I will appreciate...."
b) So she "chooses to let it go" assuming we pay her at least $10 (but she'll accept $100 as well, all in tens pleases)?
c) Again, her being upset about the idea of cat pee, rather than being bothered by an actual odor or stain, really shouldn't be our problem.

Dear Sonia,
Sorry about the lamp. I never saw it, but it's difficult to imagine that it couldn't have been cleaned. We encourage you to keep the cats out of your apartment.

I will let you know that it was a lamp with fabric on it. I simply let it go it isn't worth it. I suppose that since you do not sleep on cat pee it is not your concern. Thak you for the advice. I give that back. Iris and I don't need to keep the windows closed out of fear that animals will pee on our things. It is however a great idea that I do not invite them in or that is okay as well. Most people take responsability for the actions of thier pets however possibly you are an exception, of course I do not know you well enough to judge. Thank you for hearing me and acknowledging the occurance. I choose to let it go and release it now.

a) Screens.
b) A wet cloth.
c) Stain remover--for example, the all natural kind we gave her, and which she refused to use, after the first incident.
d) Is she taking the advice or giving it back? Is she letting it go or hanging onto it or releasing it? My god, it's like watching a tennis match with her.

I haven't responded to this one yet. I might not ever. I'm really busy these days taking no responsibility for things.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

the difference between almost 6 and not yet 4 1/2

We have recently implemented a reward system to encourage the boys to stay on task during our nightly hell that difficult stretch in the evenings when a lot needs to happen and their motivation for doing it is nil. Why would they want to change for bed when they can wrestle wildly instead, pretty much guaranteeing that one or both of them will end up injured and in tears because it's late and they're really tired and their coordination and judgment (to the extent that they have any to begin with) are not what they could be?

We see their point, but still.

Now they get a star for everything they need to do--get into pajamas, put their clothing in the washing machine, brush their teeth, etc.--as long as we don't have to ask more than once. When they reach ten stars, they get a mini Kit Kat bar.

I wasn't crazy about rewarding them with candy. It was Stupid Daddy's idea; if he had his way, they'd be force-fed corn syrup and Red #40. Straight. But I couldn't think of anything else that was small and immediate and inexpensive to replace the candy--not until this morning before school, when I observed Ezra reviewing his very meager collection of Pokemon cards.

"What if you guys got Pokemon cards instead of Kit Kats?" I asked him.

"Noooo," he said. "I want Kit Kats."

"The thing about Kit Kats," I said, "is that you eat them and then they're gone. Pokemon cards you can collect, you can trade. You can bring them to the playground to show your friends."

"Yeah!" he said. "I want to do Pokemon cards!"

At that moment, Levi came downstairs, and I told him what Ezra and I had been discussing.

"Noooo," he said. "I want Kit Kats."

"But Levi," Ezra said. "I'm worried you'll be sad, because you eat a Kit Kat and then it's gone."

Levi's eyes grew wide. "YUMMMMMMYYYY!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

you can just send a bill at the end of the month

I fear that I have misled people about Iris, painting a picture of a saintly waif in tragic circumstances.

All that stuff I told you about Sonia--I made it up. She is just about the kindest, most loving person I know. Iris' room is overflowing with toys and clothing. When the weather is warm and the windows are open, all I hear from their home is laughter.

Actually, everything I've said is true, but I've neglected to say it all. Iris is indeed a wonderfully upbeat girl with a big heart. But she can also be extremely pushy, possessive, and downright rude. I don't know how many times she's just come right out and asked me for money, or even told me I "need" to give her money--money for her birthday, which is next week, money for Christmas, money just because she happens to be fondling the coins in our change bowl and wants some of it for herself.

If she ever found a toy in some random corner in the house (this when she was still allowed to play over here), she asked if she could keep it. When I told her that she was welcome to play with it but it belonged to one of my kids, she became petulant. "But I found it!" she'd say. "I should get to have it."

She also kind of beats up on me. She and the other neighborhood girls often engaged in an elaborate game of school/house with Ezra and Levi. The girls were always the teachers or moms, and the boys were always the kids. On many occasions, if I appeared on the scene in the midst of their play, Iris would wave her hand dismissively at me and tell everyone, "She's the maid."

And that is in fact how she often treated me, leaving food wrappers and other trash on the floor, when--being almost ten, and given the very rigorous training she's gotten at home--she certainly knew better. I once walked in on the kids in the bathroom and discovered the cat food dish on the vanity. I asked how it got there, and Iris explained that was the only way they could lure Eloise into the room with them. When I told her the cat food dish needed to stay in the pantry, she said, "Well, can you just bring it downstairs for me?"

Part of me is like, Fuck you! when she acts this way. But I manage to have some restraint, and instead I try to set clear limits with her. I do also tell her when her behavior is bugging me. Because while on the one hand I want to give her some leeway given the hell she goes through next door, making excuses for her isn't going to help her in the long run.

See, but then I start to wonder whether I actually expect more of her than any other kid (that's not mine). Even nine-year-olds living in the best of circumstances aren't perfectly behaved and always considerate. Certainly some troubling behavior from Iris is to be expected. I even understand it--or at least I think I do. I figure I must be the safe mother on whom she can act out some of the hostility and rage she feels toward her real mother. And all the hoarding of toys and obsession with money--that makes sense given that her mother is constantly denying her what she wants and methodically taking away what she has.

So why is Iris' bad behavior so loaded?

Part of it, I believe, is that I've grown really attached to her. She isn't just someone else's kid. On some level, I do think of her as mine.

But when I dig down, I realize I have this expectation that she should be nicer, more generous, more grateful, because she is easier to love that way. Her plight becomes so much more compelling. She turns into a fairy tale character, a better story to tell. And I am folded into the tale, the good witch, pure of heart, who looks out for her and keeps her safe. I don't think it's a coincidence that I haven't mentioned any of this here before--here on this blog, where I spin captivating yarns.

So I'm coming clean. People--we are so very complicated.

Monday, December 10, 2007

why, yes, she does have two older brothers; what makes you ask?

Each night of Hannukah this year, we have been attending the candle lighting ceremony at the Jewish Community Center, where Levi and Lilah go to preschool (and where Ezra used to go before he began Christian Academy).

In addition to the actual lighting of the candles (and associated blessings), there is also much wonderful singing, led by this awesome woman named Penny who has a lovely voice and plays a mean acoustic guitar. One of the Hannukah songs that get a lot of play is the "dreidl song," the first verse of which goes:

I have a little dreidl, I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready, oh dreidl I shall play

Penny has been encouraging families to come up with their own versions of this first verse. Every night, after leading the group in singing the song the original way, she asks if anyone has made up any new lyrics. She strums the guitar dramatically and sings slowly,

"I have a little dreidl, I made it out of--"

and then waits for somebody to pipe up. Some examples of verses that have been introduced this year include:

I have a little dreidl, I made it out of gum
And when I tried to spin it, it stuck right to my thumb


I have a little dreidl, I made it out of snow
I put it in the oven, where did my dreidl go?

Tonight, Penny provided that same dramatic introduction before turning the song over to the small group of families collected there.

"I have a little dreidl," she began. "I made it out of--"

"PENIS!" Lilah shouted, with glee.

Which wasn't embarrassing at all. Nope, not in the least.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

it was more than enough

Last night, Iris snuck over on her way to deliver the compost and gave us Hannukah presents:

"It was all I had," she said.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

my son, the yid

A few weeks ago, Ezra and I were hanging out after school and I asked him what he had been given for snack that day.

"Crackers," he said. "And cheese."

"What kind of crackers?" (I am quite the conversationalist; you should see me at cocktail parties.)

"Jewish crackers."

"Huh. And why were they Jewish crackers?"

"They had a quarter on them."


For the first night of Hannukah this year, my mom sent Ezra and Levi watches. Today, Ezra brought his in to school for show-and-tell.

"And when I told them that it was for Hannukah," he said, "my teachers knew that I was the only rich kid in the class. So they asked me to explain to everyone what Hannukah is about."

Perhaps he has these notions because every day after school, we swindle some unsuspecting Christians and then go home to count and sort our pile of money at the kitchen table, which is fun except that our enormous hook noses keep banging into each other.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

if a blog entry gets posted in the forest, and no one is reading...

Helllllooooo? Anyone there? November was this magical month in which I saw my daily readership explode into some serious double-digit action. And now that NaBloPoMo is only a cute but nonetheless hard to pronounce name for something that might as well have happened millenia ago, my readership has returned to its regular embarrassment of numbers. Of course, blogging isn't only about attracting more readers. But it's mostly about that.

I guess I wouldn't be taking it so hard if I felt like there was at least one domain in my life where I had some degree of control. But not only can I not boost my readership, I can't seem to get my kids to behave, I can't make Stupid Daddy pass his very important exam, I can't make all those thousands of lost emails reappear in my mail program after last week's unfortunate accident, I can't get my career up and running again. Christ, I can't even get the IRS to help me out with a simple question. No, instead I'm passed along to four different people, half of whom keep cutting me off and keep insisting that they can't help out before I'm able to even articulate the question, and the last of whom literally hangs up on me. And then I throw the phone across the room, but, in contrast to previous throws with previous phones, may they rest in peace, it doesn't break this time. See? I can't even make that happen. No control over a fucking thing.

I'm seriously considering becoming anorexic.

Monday, December 3, 2007

seems like a valid question

I expected not to be saying this for at least another 12 years, but man, my daughter can be a real bitch sometimes. I thought things had hit rock-bottom when I found her diary a few weeks ago. It seems, in retrospect, that at that point, we were maybe halfway there.

Mostly what drives me crazy is her continual wailing on the cats and drawing on her brothers' artwork, despite repeated reprimands and time-outs. Oh, and also the continual wailing on her brothers with absolutely zero provocation. That and the way she throws food off the counter and then laughs maniacally. And her incredibly high-pitched, loud, and much overused scream. And her insistence on doing by herself everything that she can't actually do by herself ("NO, MY HELP!") and her demands for assistance with all the things she really can do on her own.

With the boys, who were a serious helping of pain-in-the-ass from day one, I barely noticed the transition into toddlerhood. But for the first two years of her life, Lilah was the kind of "easy baby" I had previously only heard about. I had really gotten used to that--I had been lulled into a false sense of security--and then wham!, these terrible twos sure did take me by surprise.

Earlier today, when Levi looked away from a drawing that he was working on for a fraction of a second and Lilah, who had apparently been lying in wait, dragged her crayon across it, Ezra leaped to his brother's defense. After the usual round of urgings that I just smack her, he began crying along with his brother and then screamed--at me, at the world--"WHY DO WE EVEN NEED A SISTER?"

It's interesting, though: when Lilah was a breeze 24/7, the boys frequently drove me to tears. And now, during this period when Lilah is so very challenging, Ezra has been an absolute delight unrelentingly hostile and stubborn, and Levi is just as happy-go-lucky as can be vacillates between falling-apart fragile and too cool to bother with the rules of the household or acknowledge that I have a mouth that issues words aimed in his direction--unless I am offering chocolate pudding. So you see, it all evens out in the end.

Friday, November 30, 2007

ending with a fizzle

Earlier today, I asked Stupid Daddy to do that magical thing he does when my computer starts behaving badly--disk utility, something else, something else. I don't know exactly, all of it scares me. He does what he does and my computer, she purrs happily again.

Except that this time, in addition to the above, Stupid Daddy also took it upon himself to accidentally delete my entire hard drive. Oops.

Undaunted, I decided to use his computer for my final NaBloPoMo post when it was freed up at the end of the day. But at some point this afternoon, he did something different but equally grave to his computer.

Now both computers are in the shoppe, and we are temporarily a computer-free household.

And yet, there was a blog post to complete. So I went over to my friends' house down the street to use their computer. But alas, cookies were not enabled and when I followed the instructions to enable them, nothing changed. Access denied. Login failed.

So here I am finally at my sister-in-law's, typing away, getting it done because it needs to get done. But the keys make a different noise when I click them and the cursor moves faster, and it's just not the same. Besides, I need to head home now to help Stupid Daddy put three tired and cranky kids to bed.

NaBloPoMo has been a blast. No, really. It has.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I've got a bone to pick. I think it's a herring bone. from the buffet at the synagogue. because I'm Jewish and all.

Today Ezra came home from school with a permission slip to go on a field trip in a couple of weeks. I was delighted, because his class hadn't been on one in a while and field trips are fun!

But then I read the specifics and my heart sank like a latke. The children will be going to the Grove Park Inn to "view gingerbread houses, Christmas trees, sing with Major Bear and the Grove Park Inn carolers."

And I was just so pissed off that whoever wrote this didn't realize there needs to be an "and" instead of a comma after "houses." What's with these people?

Actually, here's what I'm upset about: Religion has no place in the public schools, hello!

I'll admit that I'm up on this soapbox for personal reasons. My kid is Jewish. He doesn't celebrate Christmas. Maybe if every kid celebrated the same holidays and went to the same houses of worship, I wouldn't care about this issue at all.

But as long as there is just one nebbishy Jewboy child who doesn't celebrate Christmas in the mix, going on a Christmas-y field trip just isn't okay. As it is, Ezra goes and feels excluded, or he doesn't go and feels excluded.

The contention that Christmas is an American holiday is preposterous, as is the claim that carols and gingerbread houses and Christmas trees are so mainstream they no longer have any religious connotations. (I really don't know about Major Bear.)

You could argue that there's no way not to exclude any kids ever. If there's a dad in a story that the teacher reads to the class, there might be a lone fatherless little girl who feels left out. If there's a unit on color in art class, the colorblind boy is completely out of the loop. There are always differences among kids, and it's true there's no way to factor in all of them when planning lessons.

And yet, religious practice is so fundamentally different. Right? This is America. Separation of church and state?

I'm not asking that the school also take the kids on a field trip to the menorah lighting ceremony at the Jewish Community Center. I'm just asking that they stick to kindergarten stuff--discovering that spiders have eight legs, saving the planet, lurning to reed and spel--and let the families practice whatever religion we want to, on our own time and in our own way.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

think globally, act mathematically

I seem to have temporarily lost my NaBloPoMo mojo, so I'm going to dip into my secret stash of anecdotes that I've squirreled away for just such an occasion.

A few weeks ago, before she was banned from spending any time with our evil and dangerous family, Iris came with Ezra and me to pick up Levi and Lilah at day care--something she used to do frequently in the good old days, when her mom had not yet discovered our habit of roasting babies in our basement being normal.

On the way, she and Ezra were chatting about the school news that gets broadcast into the classroom every morning. (They go to different schools but are in the same school system.) I asked them to clarify what exactly constitutes "news" in this context, and Ezra explained that, among other things, the news at his school talked a lot about saving the planet.

"Yeah, we're saving the planet, too," Iris said, looking out the window. "But we're also doing long division."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

a real pystery

Recently, in this grueling month of daily posts, I wrote about this cat and how the whole neighborhood privately cheered when she peed on Sonia's bed.

But please, if you will, turn your attention to the other cat in the house. Allow me to introduce Ramona:

I got Ramona on a whim long before Eloise was even a glimmer in some unspayed and really horny stray cat's eye. We already had two cats (Dora and Boots, RIP, thanks to the fact that we lived on an insanely busy street in the first case, and the fact that he could not stop pooping in the bath tubs and peeing in our beds in the second case, and yes, we tried different litter, different litter boxes, different litter boxes placed in different locations, including the bath tubs) and two dogs, not to mention the three kids. And on top of all those very good reasons not to get another pet, we were set to move in a few months.

But there she was, the last in the box of free kitties outside the grocery store. And I simply could not resist.

We all immediately fell in love. She was wee and sweet and gentle, and--more remarkably--the mellowest cat in the world. On moving day, she lay sprawled out on the dog bed, which we had transferred to the front yard, sunning herself and watching the proceedings. Every so often she got up to nuzzle with the moving guys, who were helpless before her, as were all human beings.

We moved three times in three months (long story, home renovation, contractors incapable of making realistic projections, much aggravation), and each time, we were all, Let's lock her in a room for a few days, she's going to slip out and not know where home is and we'll never see her again. And each time, she was all, Don't worry, be happy, everything is fine.

Any time she came across a new dog, she would just hang out, casual-like, and be all, Yo, dawg, what up? never budging from where she was, often moseying on up to say hi, and certainly never hissing or arching her back or growling.

And this is how she was with our dogs:

And this is how she was with our kids:

Yes, both are fast asleep. Here's a close-up:

So you can see why it never crossed our minds that getting a new cat would disturb her at all, especially since she was still a kitten when we finally settled into our new house and got Eloise, because there she was one day at the pet store, an innocent trip to get more dog food, those ridiculous adoption booths with the cat ladies who totally suck you in with their laser vision, you know how it goes.

And yet. Ever since Eloise came onto the scene, we hardly see Ramona. She has started hissing and growling, where she used to nuzzle and purr. Eloise keeps trying to play with her--hi, I'm a kitten too, how about I pounce on you while you're lying there?--and she keeps swatting and snarling. Even with us, she's been downright bitchy.

Several weeks ago, I noticed cat pee on the bath mat. Actually, if you've ever smelled cat pee, you know it's not something you "notice"; it's something that overtakes you. And then, a few days later, some cat pee on the bath mat we put down in place of the original bath mat because we could not get rid of the stench. And then cat pee in the tub. And then I began to find dried little orange dribbles along the baseboards throughout the house.

Stupid Daddy and I have only found the pee after the fact, so we don't know for sure who is responsible (though we both agree it's a cat, because we're geniuses). We immediately suspected Ramona, who really has seem perturbed about life in general and just angry enough to act out like that. But Eloise's recent performance vis-a-vis the peeing has called this hypothesis completely into question. Right?

So is it Ramona or Eloise? And what can we do to fix the problem? Anyone?

Monday, November 26, 2007

some things about the world that I'm trying to teach Lilah, with varying degrees of success

--If you're planning on cleaning the walls ("cean!"), a Clif Bar is probably not the best tool for the job, though I'll admit, if you squint and the lighting isn't great, it does sort of look like a sponge (which itself is probably not the best tool for the job, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it).

--Cats are pretty good at cleaning themselves and don't really need any help from us.

--The potty is not a yoga prop. (She sits down on it and bends way forward so her head is almost lined up with her feet--that's some sort of asana, I just know it--and then says, "Yook! Loga!")

--Older brothers are definitely tough, but they still bleed when you maul them. (I heard Levi screaming from the playroom and ran in to find him bleeding from three separate spots on his cheek. Ezra explained: "She scratched him with her sharp baby claws.")

--Library books are not for practicing origami.

--That big blue car with the battery that won't die and the buttons on the back, one of which plays 12 seconds of serious rock-and-roll, dude, at a deafening volume? It's possible to push that button so many times that even your brothers will start to complain.

--Many objects break when you throw them.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

there I go indeed

"What should I blog about tonight?"

"You could blog about your conversation with Virginia [neighbor who lives above Iris; we traded anecdotes this evening]."

"No, I want it to be short."

"You're short."

"So should I blog about myself?"

"There you go."

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I have been tagged by Elizabeth Coplan at A Wild Ride to do a meme.

First, the rules:
1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Now, the meme:
I did just recently do 100 things, all of which are random (although, as my best friend and I used to joke many, many years ago, pretending we were at a cocktail party trying to say something profound and impressive, is anything ever really random?), and many of which are probably weird. But of course, there's always more:

1. I wear socks to bed in the cooler weather, and every morning--inexplicably, confoundingly--I wake up with my left sock on and my right sock off.
2. I once took six pregnancy tests over the course of a 10-day period, so convinced was I that I was pregnant, so hopeful was I that I was pregnant, which, okay, what the hell was I thinking? I had a two-year-old and a seven-month-old at the time.
3. I don't really like ice cream anymore.
4. I've never kissed a girl. But I've thought about it plenty.
5. When I was eight, I had a Dorothy Hamill haircut. Smokin'.
6. There was a period in my life when I all I ate was cereal. I bought whatever was on sale at Star Market, and that was that, though I must admit I was especially excited when it was Golden Grahams.
7. Most of the time, I feel like a total failure.

These are the fine folks I've tagged:

Go check them out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

sharpen your pencils

1. Which of the following best describes Stupid Daddy's performance on the exam he took a couple of months ago (answers on page 278):
a) orgasmic
b) passed with flying colors
c) good enough
d) god fucking damn it! do I just go ahead and kill myself now?

2. What is the relationship between the date of the retest and the stress level of the grown-ups in the house, with a being the date and b being the stress level?
a) a has no effect on b
b) as a approaches, b increases, which is pretty scary since b was nothing to sneeze at to begin with
c) a and b are like ships passing in the night, except that they high-five each other and do a belly bump on the way
d) a keeps trying to break off the goddamn relationship, but b is a bit of a stalker

3. Which of the following best describes conversation among the grown-ups during the period of intensive study prior to the exam?
a) supportive; we're still good to each other even during difficult times
b) strictly business; there's just no time for pleasantries
c) peppered with all kinds of swearing; tension turns us into drunken sailors
d) what conversation?

4. What is the most plausible explanation for Stupid Daddy's performance the first time around?
a) Ezra
b) Levi
c) Lilah
d) all of the above

5) What safeguards have we put into place to ensure that these do not affect his performance negatively again?
a) Netflix upgrade
b) wishful thinking
c) lucky underwear
d) prayer

Thursday, November 22, 2007

phoning it in

You could argue that yesterday's post was phoned in too, but you see, with that one I was going for a minimalist, one-two punch kind of thing.



This is what I feel like:




and I just don't have the motivation to say anything beyond that.

Except: Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

waving the white flag

I just can't pull it together to do this tonight.

Two boys 17 months apart, and a two-year-old who takes her job seriously?

Holy shit. I surrender.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

perhaps taking his cues from next door

Last night, in a moment of inspiration, Ezra and Levi decided to do some yoga. They unrolled our yoga mat in the hallway and determined that Ezra would be the "instructor on television" who told Levi what to do. (He is pretty much always telling Levi what to do, so the only "stretch" for him was going to be the actual poses.)

They were working on some kind of modified triangle pose (modifications included arched backs and protruding tongues) when Levi decided he wanted to do his own thing. So he lay down on the mat and started kicking his legs to the ceiling.

"Levi, we're not doing that now," Ezra said.

But Levi was definitely all about doing that now, and he told Ezra as much.


Monday, November 19, 2007

an epistolary cat fight, annotated

After finding out that foam mats can be effectively spot-cleaned, we have decided that buying you a new mat is not necessary. And in any case, we are not especially invested in going out on a limb for you.** You reap what you sow in this world.
Deb and Stupid Daddy

Deb and Stupid Daddy,
Considering that foam reacts as a sponge I believe the pee has soaked through and spot cleaning will not effectively clean the stain. I will appreciate the foam being replaced, thank you. It seems our level of affection for one another is mutual. I have no doubt you both are wonderful human beings. I however do not deserve or need the level of judgment I heard yesterday.*** You can have that back and perhaps use it towards something else. Stupid Daddy, compassion and gentleness is a wonderful approach with me.

Interesting, Sonia, that you ask for compassion and gentleness and yet what you give--despite all your "namastes"--is aggression, anger, criticism, bossiness, and complete inflexibility. Here is a cleaning product that has worked perfectly for us. You can wring out the area and then let it air dry. Please return it when you are finished.

Thank you for the cleaning product. It is your integrity. I believe that the nature of the situation is the fact that my bed was not stained before. It was done by a cat you have taken responsibility for and my wishes need to be honored however I surrender as far as I don't need to let this affect my peace of mind, body, or spirit. I hear a lot of perceptions and accusations. I believe we are inner reflections so possibly this is what is in you as well. I noticed a dog has gone to the bathroom in the path of the yard. Not something myself or anyone needs to step in. I will not say for a fact it is Moxie. Shall she do this perhaps teaching her alternative places will help.

I'm sure you do hear a lot of "perceptions and accusations." If they are consistent--and my hunch is that they are--perhaps you should start listening to them. As a neighbor noted when I mentioned what Eloise had done, "That cat was just acting out everyone's wishes." Speaking of wishes, why is it that you "need" to have your wishes honored but feel completely entitled to ignore the rest of the world's? I'm so curious to know what kind of logic goes into that.

*Yes, that's her name. I'm not sure why I was so committed to keeping that a secret. It's not like she has some top secret job like my husband or anything, and constantly referring to her as "Iris' mom" made for some clunky phrasing, for sure.
**Specifically, I was talking about the fact that Iris had just been banned from coming over to our house "ever again" (though she did sneak over to deliver this news, and has continued taking the compost to the compost bin via the first floor of our house). When I asked her if her mom had explained why, she said, "Yeah. She said that her and Stupid Daddy got into a fight...," and then she kind of trailed off. The ban is clearly our punishment, although I'm sure Sonia invented all kinds of important reasons that it had to happen--for example, the fact that we have really bad karma.
***Being told her treatment of Iris was "cruel."
****This last note was intercepted by Stupid Daddy. I'm willing to consider the possibility that this was a prudent move on his part, but I definitely haven't been sold on the idea yet.

So here we are. Nothing has happened in the last day-and-a-half except that I have snuck over a few times to shift the doormat--which is always perfectly square with the threshold of the front door--so that it's ever so slightly askew, first one way, and then the other way, and then back again. I know I'm just being juvenile, but I feel kind of like the nuns in The Sound of Music when they steal the ignition cable from the Nazis' car so the Von Trapps can escape into the mountains. And I need to have that honored.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

that didn't go so well

Stupid Daddy dutifully went over to talk to Iris' mom about real or imagined pee stains on Friday. She was on the phone and as he left he heard her say, "I feel like you're dancing around this. You can be straight with me."


She must have registered that he was there, because she came over later to talk to him. In the interim, however, Iris had made a panicked appearance wondering if she had left the key to her building's laundry room here. The key was missing and no one in the building could remember who had it last, but her mom was taking away her allowance anyway. (Let's set aside for a moment the question of the legitimacy of docking her allowance had she in fact lost the key and note the following: what an insane bitch!)

So when Iris' mom showed up, Stupid Daddy asked her, "So you're willing to admit you don't know if Iris lost the key and you're still taking away her allowance?"

Sho' nuff.

"That's cruel," Stupid Daddy said.

At which point mom, who had deigned to step into our entryway, backed out, claiming she didn't need to be spoken to that way. And then, without missing a beat, she asked whether we were going to replace her "ruined" mat.

"Sure," Stupid Daddy said. Which obviously wasn't what I was hoping for, but I wasn't there having to deal with her and her toxic cloud of bullshit, wishing she'd get the hell out of my face, so who am I to criticize?

"Great," she said. "I need a full-size pad. And I need the extra-thick kind." To demonstrate exactly how thick, she had both hands in front of her like she was bringing a triple-decker sandwich up to her mouth, never mind that she'd never even allow herself to be in the same room as a triple-decker sandwich. "And when do you think you'll be able to get it for me?"

I have to give her props for so magically roping us not only into buying the freaking thing, but also into actually running the errand on her behalf.

But then we jointly decided, Fuck it! We don't owe this woman anything. And I wrote her a note to that effect.

Things have been rather tense ever since.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

breaking the silence

They warn you about the agony of those sleepless nights, when the baby needs to nurse every hour till dawn, and then you stumble through the day--bleary-eyed and disoriented. They warn you about the way your marriage will invariably shift, and the sense of loss and mourning that follow. They warn you about losing your sense of self, your entire being subsumed by this tiny, helpless creature--and how you may or may not reclaim it as that baby grows into a child.

But what they don't warn you about is how much it fucking kills when, in your bare feet, you step on a goddamn piece of Lego.

Friday, November 16, 2007

here's my middle finger, honor that, bitch!

We have a kitten named Eloise who is just about the most charming thing on the planet.

When she's not in her manic kitten mode, scaling walls, chasing her tail, attacking Legos and then making them move with her back paw and then attacking them again! because she had to! they were moving! and the like, she will climb up into any available lap, her motor going, and fall asleep.

Yesterday, Iris showed up asking if we could wash her mom's blanket, because Eloise had snuck into the apartment just as Iris was opening the door, made a beeline for her mom's bed monk's mat on the floor, squatted down, and peed. (And again, for you newcomers, the Iris saga begins here.)

So of course I said sure, and Iris handed over a bag of soap nuts that her mother wanted the blanket to be washed with, because why would our cruelty-free, biodegradable, HE, all natural detergent be acceptable? Then she went back home to get the blanket. This gave me enough time to share the news with Stupid Daddy so we could privately shep nachas--did I not say this cat was charming? I mean, really, of all the spots she could have chosen--before composing ourselves again.

The problem was, Stupid Daddy answered the door when Iris returned, immediately took the blanket upstairs and started a load of laundry without my knowing and before I had a chance to tell him about the soap nuts, which were sitting on the kitchen counter.

We all knew this was going to turn into a big deal, but our washer is a front loader, so the damage was done. Iris was panicked that she was going to get in trouble, but I told her to tell her mom it was my fault; she did what she was supposed to, but I had failed to communicate the information to Stupid Daddy.

After the blanket was washed and dried, Stupid Daddy returned it to Iris' house. Later on in the night, Iris delivered a note from her mom and also told us that she had indeed been blamed for the grave and horrible mistake I had made. I can't locate the note at the moment, but it went something like this:

Thank you for washing and drying my blanket. [In her every interaction with me, she paves the way for the insanity by beginning with something "kind"--some sort of "thank you," or the scraps of some nasty-ass vegetable she found at the farmer's market and wants to "share" with us before bitching about something we've done wrong, or like that time she brought over some chocolate before complaining about how I had intruded on her "sanctuary."] My skin is sensitive to smells so I wanted to use the soap nuts. I need to have that honored.


What the fuck did she think? That I had intentionally ignored her request just to be mean? And what, is washing her laundry going to be a regular thing going forward?

Whatever. Deep breaths, it's over.

Except it's not over! This morning on the way to the school bus, Iris delivered another note from her mom (spelling errors have been corrected):

Thank you again for being so willing to wash my blanket. I do not come from a place of anger in the intent of this letter yet I do not sleep on a mattress that was protected. I sleep on a foam mat I do not feel to be so clean any longer due to cat pee and will be appreciative of a new one.


Let's assume, for a moment, that the cat pee did in fact make it to the mat. A reasonable person might have a) flipped the mat over, b) asked if we had any products to get rid of cat pee, or c) said, Look, I know it was an accident, but my mat got ruined. Would you mind helping to cover the cost of replacing it?

This woman, however, is completely bonkers, so of course she chose d) none of the above.

But it's not even clear whether there is any real damage. Even her language casts doubt: "...a mat I do not feel to be clean any longer...." I'm sure she doesn't feel her apartment to be clean unless Iris sweeps it every single afternoon, even though they always take their shoes off before going in and never have any visitors (well, except for Eloise). But that doesn't mean it actually needs to be swept.

And check out how unbelievably aggressive she is, too: "I will appreciate a new one." As if it's a given that we're going to replace it, because she is now dictating that it will be so.

I called her landlord this morning to ask for his advice, because I know that he is a reasonable, thoughtful guy and I also know that she is constantly badgering him to fix pressing problems in her apartment like loose screws and a dinged stove top.

He told me he sees her as the "petty tyrant" in his life (a Carlos Castaneda term; remember, folks, I'm in Asheville)--the person who pushes his buttons so he can learn how to stay "even."

He suggested I ask to see the mat to determine if there was in fact a stain or an odor, and if not, to tell her simply, "I understand that you feel replacing this is important, but I don't see any damage and I don't think it's reasonable."

Which was excellent advice, I thought. I'm going to sic Stupid Daddy right on it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

a note to Lilah from my boobs

We don't know how to say this exactly, and it breaks our heart to have to say it at all, but we've been silent for too long, so here goes.

We think it's best if we broke it off. It's not that we don't love you; we just feel it's time to move on, time for us to go our separate ways. No, we haven't met someone else; don't even go there. Sure, there's your father; but that's been going on on the side for a while now. You knew about that, right? Please tell us you knew.

Didn't know. Shit.

But your father--he's not the reason we're telling you this now. He has nothing to do with it, nothing at all. For months now, we've been feeling like the magic just isn't there anymore, not to mention the milk. We're tired of going through the motions. It just all feels so empty now. And it pains us--we mean literally, it pains us--to have to keep up this charade.

We kind of sense, even though you talk big, that the passion is gone for you too. You ask to nurse, and then, if your mom tries to distract you, you get huffy with her and demand it. "Nuss!" you say, furrowing your brow, banging on us with your fists through her clothing. Eventually, she'll give in, sit down with you, and whip one of us out--a risky venture these days, at least in public, what with her ease fitting into her low-rise jeans, and her difficulty keeping the three extra inches of tummy from hanging over them. But you'll nurse for ten seconds, tops, before demanding the other one. And in just moments you'll be done with that one too. You'll hear a sound--a friend on the playground, say, if your mom is picking you up from preschool, or one of the cats bounding about if you're at home--and then push away. Done. You've got other things that interest you, other things you are now passionate about. Like bringing the kitten crayons. Spending as much time naked as possible. Driving your parents crazy when it's the end of the day and all they want is to get you into your goddamn pajamas Playing chase. Sipping those banana-flavored yogurt drinks with a straw.

Ask yourself in an honest moment whether we're just a crutch for you, whether you rely on us for no other reason than that we're familiar. Ask yourself whether that's really the best thing for you. Ask yourself how long you think this can go on.

Sure, we've had some good times. Remember when you were young and we were so engorged that your mom couldn't lie on her stomach and if for some reason you weren't ready to nurse the milk would just spurt out anyway in a sticky, embarrassing mess the milk flowed freely? Remember when each of us was twice the size of your head? Remember how you used to nurse and then drift off to sleep, with a droplet of milk collected in the corners of your sleep smile? Remember the sounds you used to make?

We will always cherish those memories, and we hope that after the hurt has worn off for you, you will too.

Oh, um, we changed the voice mail greeting, and we'd like you to have everything cleared out of the apartment by Sunday evening, if that's all right. You can leave the key in the mailbox.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

with friends like these...or, the essence of brotherhood

The eight of you who read my blog on a regular basis may have noticed that while I used to talk about Ezra and Levi ad nauseam all the time, I've not mentioned them at all lately.

That's because I killed them.

Actually, I'm not sure how to account for the recent shift in focus. But here they are again, in a brief but vibrant cameo appearance:

Last night, the two of them were wrestling happily on the couch when things went awry, as they always do, especially as bed time approaches. I didn't see exactly what happened, but my guess is that Ezra went overboard burying Levi under the cushions. And then sitting on top of them. And then ignoring Levi's muffled screams.

When Levi finally surfaced--rubbing lint out of his eyes, his hair all mussed--he announced, "Ezra's not my friend."

"Lee-viii," Ezra said, giggling. "I'm your brother. I'm always going to be your friend."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

hi, I'm Lilah, and I'm a two-nager

Dear Diary,

UGH!!! Living in this house with all these stupid bourgeois rules is bullshit. I am constantly getting in trouble for being who I want to be, and I’m totally sick of it.

I’m not allowed to hit the cats because it’s “not nice”; I can’t throw food at my mom because it makes her “feel sad”: I can't scream at the top of my lungs whenever I feel like it because it "hurts" everyone's "ears."

Since when is life all about not upsetting anyone, not ruffling anyone’s feathers, not questioning the status quo? Do they think Gloria Steinem is “nice”? Do they think Rosa Parks worried about offending people? Do they think Lisa Simpson doesn’t speak her mind? They should know as well as I do (and anyone else who spends any amount of time driving around in a liberal town), well-behaved women rarely make history. (Not to mention the fact that Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam, arms are for hugging, and that Volvo driver’s other car is a yoga mat.)

I can’t color on the walls because they have to be “clean” so the house “looks pretty.” I can’t take Levi’s toy out of his hands because it “belongs to him.” Whatever, if my parents want to subscribe to that materialist, consumerist paradigm, fine; I just wish they wouldn’t lay that trip on me.

I can’t keep blocking Ezra’s view of the television after he’s asked me to move because I have to “listen to his words.” As if his access to that misogynistic, violent, mind-numbing blather that passes for programming is somehow more important than my need to stand in that exact spot at that exact moment in time.

They’re all such selfish hypocrites.

More later….I can hear my dad calling me to “eat dinner”--just another meaningless convention they make me subscribe to. For now.

Fuck you, Mom and Dad, you conformist losers, you complacent sheep. As soon as I am potty-trained and can clothe and feed and bathe myself and talk and drive and pay my own way, I am so out of here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

the wall

When I was in my early thirties, I got very serious about running. I planned routes; I did hard runs and easy ones; I did intervals and hills and cross-training workouts; I kept track of my weekly mileage.

But I wasn't actually training for anything--just doing my usual compulsive, neurotic, solitary thing--till one day, at Stupid Daddy's urging, I finally registered for a race, chosen somewhat randomly. It was a 15k, which I knew I could finish no problem; I had done plenty of recreational runs longer than that.

Race day was blustery and frigid; we were living in Vermont, where the temperature hangs well below freezing for like six months of the year and then soars into the 50s towards the end of spring, if you're lucky, and could somebody please get me an iced tea?, I work up a sweat just thinking about it. It was early May, and if memory serves, we runners were pelted with needles of sleet here and there throughout the race.

Nonetheless, I felt confident about my performance as the race began, even with the Pemmican Bar that Stupid Daddy insisted I eat--forgetting, as he frequently did, that I weighed about 100 pounds less than he--sitting like a brick in my stomach, all 440 calories of it.

I realize as I write this that it sounds as though I'm preparing you for another one of these stories. Lucky for everyone involved, past and present, I'm not. The point I'm trying to make, in an incredibly long-winded way, is that I started out strong and faded fast.

It's the classic novice racer's mistake, and knowing it didn't stop me from making it. You get so pumped with adrenaline that you just fly along those first few miles, thinking you can keep up the pace, or not even realizing how fast you're actually going, or some combination of the two, only to have things slow down dramatically as the race progresses. People pass you, and more people pass you, and by the time you cross the finish line, you're cooked.

And the point of all that is to explain that I feel like something analogous has happened with this whole NaBloPoMo thing. After a strong and inspired start, I've hit a wall. It's only the 12th of November and I'm hobbling along, folks, hobbling along.

But I think if I take this middle stretch easy, I'll be able to finish--and possibly even finish with without having to crawl.

Lighter posting this week, therefore, beginning now.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

everybody's doing it

I had this whole long post that I was working on, and midway through, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to finish it in the time I have this evening (I hear Lilah crying for Mommy right now) and also have it conform to my stylistic trifecta of eloquence, wisdom, and wit.

And so, because she did it, and she did it, and she did it too, I'm posting something that I've uncovered from my writing vault.

I went through this period when I was in my twenties where I would get woken up at 5:30 by my dog, Moxie, and have to take her on an emergency-multiple-dump walk around the block. She was on this special high-fiber diet that was supposed to help manage some intestinal issues that I later ended up ignoring because I grew weary of waking up at 5:30 and cleaning up three rounds of shit on any given stroll, and look, it's 12 years later and she's still alive.

So I'd walk her and then return to my apartment, brew a pot of caffeinated coffee, and drink it and smoke cigarettes and write poetry. (Go ahead, roll your eyes. But hey, at least I didn't wear a beret!)

During this same period of time, I was also dating here and there, meaning I would meet a guy and immediately go to bed with him and then, immediately following that, fall madly in love. (Yes, I know, it's just one cliche after another with me.)

So there was this one guy, okay--and let me just say, no matter what follows, please remember that he was the one who asked me out--who worked at the video store down the street, and we had a thing for a while. He was absolutely adorable and really fucking funny, and that was enough for me. He had also just graduated from college three months earlier and was six years younger than I, but that's neither here nor there.

He had had a serious girlfriend in college, but the relationship didn't survive the graduation. Nonetheless, because I was even more neurotic and jealous then than I am now, I found the ghost of her presence problematic. She was a photography major, and in his tiny room in the apartment he shared with two of his college buddies, there were a few beautiful black-and-white photographs of him, the circumstances of which I felt the need to grill him endlessly about, and also, just wondering, was he really over her for sure? And did he like me more than he had liked her? And wasn't I way more satisfying in the sack than that frigid bitch?

So there was this one picture, and I wrote a poem about it after we broke up. (By the way, can you believe we broke up? Who wouldn't want to be my boyfriend forever? He obviously had some issues he needed to work through.)

I printed out the poem and gave it to him all folded up at the video store one day, just as an FYI, you know, because he knew I was trying to be a writer, and he had his own literary aspirations, and he, like, totally took it the wrong way and thought I was stalking him. As if.

The thing is, I kind of like it:

Eye for an Eye

For the crime of stealing your hands
so beautifully right off the table
at a diner in Maine, among
plates and ketchup, sun streaming in,
I was jealous of the camera.

How freely your fingers accompliced themselves,
poised over crumbs like waves licking sand,
the affronting intimacy
with which your rings shone, as if
polished. And though love brings on
a certain flatness, the forms appeared
fully nevertheless, seduced out of
shadow by an expert eye.

The crime of returning to the scene
I’d never entered, seating myself
opposite, I was forced to commit, guilty of
knowing eggs scrambled, dry white,
recognizing the ragged cuffs
from which your hands emerged,
driven to find and steal back what I could.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

it's true what they say, about the taste and the no accounting for it

I'm glad yesterday's photo essay was such a hit; I was thinking in the middle of the night about all the ways I could have made it that much funnier. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I can only remember being upset that with all that thumbs-upping, I hadn't thought to make reference to The Fonz.

I suppose, rather than posting my entry in haste, I should have just sat on it.

Did you know that one year for Channukah Chanukkah Hannukah Hanukkah Hannuka Bxxxralllzxjllsfj the Festival of Lights, my parents gave me a Fonzie tee-shirt?

I think I was nine years old, and I was in heaven. The shirt itself was this hideous pinkish-beige, and the material, I'm certain, 50/50 at best. But it had this enormous square picture of The Fonz sitting astride his motorcycle, looking as cool as a 5' 6 1/2" Jewish guy could possibly look ever, and I wore that thing again and again, until the image peeled away, completely fractured.

I really have no idea what drew me to Fonzie, except that crushing on him is (inexplicably) what all the prepubescent girls were doing. And sometimes, when you're nine, you follow the crowd, even though your heart belongs to Mr. Clean.

Now that guy, all polished and buff and slightly naughty with that earring in his left ear: I swear to god, he made me swoon.

Friday, November 9, 2007

go, dog(faceboy), go! a photo essay with zero visual consistency

I have a Flickr friend named Leslie who just this past summer finished the same MFA program I graduated from several years ago. I've known her just a few months but feel very connected to her anyway--in part because she puts her "self " out there all the time with an endless stream of incredibly inventive photos, including many self-portraits, along with hilarious, thoughtful, biting, and vulnerable written commentary, and in part because, with her willingness to just go for it creatively, she has been a role model to me.

Leslie is a photographer, poet, essayist, mosaicist, baker, and I'm sure a bunch of other things I don't know about or have forgotten, not to mention wife to the aging but still hot Mr. Dogfaceboy and mother to an exquisite girl named Serena. She does all these things with honesty, humor, intensity, wisdom, and passion.

Just today, Leslie broke the truly awesome news on Flickr that Simon & Schuster (you've heard of them, right?) has bought her book about cake.

Even though I've done like two self-portraits in my life and have no idea what I'm doing, and even though I hadn't managed to shower yet (what a surprise), I wanted to do a congratulatory self-portrait to post on Flickr. Needless to say, my shoot didn't turn out as planned.

This was supposed to be a wide-eyed, mouth-agape hallelujah shot, but I look as frightened as I do happy. Also, am I trying to chomp down on that border there and just eat my way out of the shot, or what?

Hey, Leslie! Way to go! Thumbs up! Except I appear to be picking my nose.

Okay, thumb is up but nowhere near nostril; that's great. But am I now about to dig something out of my ear? And why is my hand bent so awkwardly?

Aha! I can hold the camera with my left hand and do a much more flattering right-handed thumbs-up. But wait a minute; is someone giving me head at the same time?

Switching my approach entirely, I decided to shoot myself spotting something up in the sky, because Leslie's flying high right now, because she loves birds, and also because a good friend of Leslie's (one who happens to be a skilled photographer) posted this congratulatory photo.

But again, I seem more confused and concerned than anything else. And because I'm so close in, it's not really clear that I'm looking skyward. So how about going wide?


Okay, I'm in focus, which is nice. But I think you'll agree that I look too much like I'm pointing out the gutter problems to the roofer.

Getting frustrated.

I decided to go back to the thumb idea, because it occurred to me that I could actually put the camera down and use both hands. Maybe two thumbs instead of one would render the tone twice as jubilant?

Barely a thumb in sight! Not to mention, once again, that small technical problem called lack of focus, which seems to keep biting me in the ass. Let's try that again.

Yes, thumbs. Two fabulous thumbs. Christ, I'm all thumbs! And yet. Focus, woman, focus!

For no reason I can divine, I returned to the hand-held camera and one thumb concept--perhaps because I realized that I hadn't fully mined it for all its creative possibilities. Here it is with a twist: the distraction of one of our cats cruising by.

And then I had to go pick up the kids. That's all I got for you, dogfaceboy, except this: CONGRATU-FUCKING-LATIONS!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

100 things

  1. I’m not crazy about taking showers, but I absolutely hate taking baths.
  2. My father died of ALS. It was awful.
  3. My mom is still alive and well, though convinced, at any given point in time, that she’s got at least three ailments requiring immediate medical attention.
  4. I love clipping my toenails.
  5. I also love cows.
  6. I was old when I lost my virginity.
  7. Like, really old.
  8. Okay, I was 22. At least I was in love! That’s more than you sluts can say for yourselves.
  9. I was also late getting my period (18—just think of all the sex I could have had without worrying about getting pregnant!), and late getting my driver’s license (21).
  10. Otherwise, I’ve always been very punctual.
  11. I sound like an idiot when I talk; on paper, the situation improves dramatically.
  12. I have a terrible sense of direction.
  13. I loathe the words purse and panties.
  14. My best friend is a man.
  15. I haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books.
  16. I was 11 weeks pregnant at my wedding.
  17. All three of my kids were born by c-section: the first, because of fetal distress; the second, because of failure to progress (labor for two-and-a-half days, stuck at eight centimeters for 4 ½ hours); the third, scheduled because after two c-sections it’s hard to find anyone who will let you try, but coincidentally I went into labor the night before, which made it all okay in my mind, and besides, by then I’d gotten used to the routine, and was also kind of looking forward to the morphine.
  18. I had my tubes tied after Lilah was born. I mean right after. As a gynecologist I saw earlier on the pregnancy put it, “We’ve got you opened up anyway. Your uterus is literally right there in our hands. We might as well get it taken care of at the same time.”
  19. I always pictured fallopian tubes being tied in a pretty little bow. The smell of burning flesh as I was lying there in the OR cleared that image out of my head.
  20. I absolutely loved being pregnant.
  21. Sometimes I wish I had more babies just so I could be pregnant again, and also so I could put to use all the names on my list, but other than that, I’m all set.
  22. Lilah was not planned. We considered having an abortion.
  23. When I was a kid, I wanted braces so badly I used to walk around with a string bean bent around my teeth. Or a paper clip.
  24. I also really wanted freckles and glasses.
  25. I’m only 5’2”, and it sucks ass.
  26. I weigh a lot more than anyone guesses I do.
  27. Muscle, baby, muscle.
  28. I’ve never puked from drinking, though I’ve certainly done my fair share of drinking.
  29. I’ve also done more than my fair share of puking.
  30. That’s bulimia for you. So glamorous.
  31. I have nice calves.
  32. I need a lot of sleep, and I usually get too little, so I nap frequently to compensate. But no more than once a day. I’m disciplined like that.
  33. I never went trick-or-treating as a kid. My dad wouldn’t let us because Halloween isn’t a Jewish holiday.
  34. I’m Jewish.
  35. For decades, I had recurring dreams about the Holocaust.
  36. I’m really nosy.
  37. I saw Steven Wright at a bar in Cambridge once. I was drunk enough to go up to him and tell him how brilliant I thought he was. I think he just thought I was annoying.
  38. I’ve been hospitalized twice for depression.
  39. I used to be able to bench press my weight.
  40. I have a tattoo on my left hip. It’s a butterfly, but not at all fabulous like butterflies are. It looks more like a moth.
  41. I wish I hadn’t gotten it.
  42. Oh well.
  43. I used to think I was boring, but I’m over that. The tattoo really helped with that one.
  44. That’s a joke.
  45. I don’t believe in God.
  46. Maybe that’s why I’m afraid of dying.
  47. I’m afraid of a lot of things.
  48. I get hot very easily and cold very easily. I’m comfortable at 68 degrees.
  49. I hate playing cards and board games. Oh my god, chess—kill me now.
  50. My first car was a Peugeot, a hand-me-down from my dad. It was rear-wheel drive and got stuck in half an inch of snow, but man, was it feisty.
  51. I’m totally not into cars.
  52. I have never liked Saturday Night Live.
  53. I started reading when I was three, or so my mom says.
  54. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel happy doing whatever it is that I do.
  55. Halfway there. Shit, this is harder than I imagined.
  56. I panic when I have to tip people; I’m always worried I’m doing the math wrong, and I’m going to end up giving them too little.
  57. My father’s father was a cab driver in New York City.
  58. My mother’s father was a tailor.
  59. My father’s mother has an IQ of like a million.
  60. Yes, she has outlived her son.
  61. Crying makes me feel good, so long as I don’t catch sight of myself in a mirror.
  62. I’ve always wanted to be famous.
  63. Teenagers intimidate me. But I find them intriguing as well.
  64. See, I could have split that up and made it count for two.
  65. I make things harder for myself than they could be.
  66. I’m my own worst enemy.
  67. I dressed up as my own worst enemy once for Halloween (when I was all grown up and no longer having to comply with my dad’s shtetl restrictions). I had arms coming out of my sweatshirt, strangling me. Nobody got it—even after they asked what I was.
  68. Envy. Ugh. I struggle with that.
  69. I’m not good at being bossed around.
  70. I’m a serious picker, which is why I was bummed that none of my babies had cradle cap.
  71. I’m always looking for the right lighting for popping zits.
  72. The fitting room I was in today was perfect. I came out looking really blotchy.
  73. Once when I was working as a cashier at Doubleday Bookstore in New York, this woman I was ringing up said to me, “Honey, what are you doing to your skin?!”
  74. I kind of looked at her like, WTF? Except it was the eighties and we didn’t have that phrase yet.
  75. And then she said, “I’m sorry. My husband’s a dermatologist.”
  76. I smoked a pack a day for a few years.
  77. I quit when I met Stupid Daddy.
  78. We were standing in line to see Jackie Brown, and he said, “You know, I’d kiss you a lot more if your breath didn’t reek of cigarettes.” And that was all it took.
  79. Now I can’t even be in the same zip code as somebody who is smoking, but oh my god, did I love it back then.
  80. I just finished my second beer.
  81. Diagramming sentences was one of my favorite assignments in school.
  82. Stupid Daddy taught me how to shoot a gun a few years ago, and I kicked ass.
  83. I dropped the gun down on the ground when I was done, though, which is apparently a serious no-no.
  84. Especially when there are kids around.
  85. I really want to be finished with this fucking thing.
  86. When I’m about to cry, the inside of my nose starts to sting.
  87. So now whenever I find something moving, I touch my nose, and Stupid Daddy knows what it means.
  88. I do love that man.
  89. I dropped out of cooking school in the first semester.
  90. I had a routine (non-fasting) cholesterol test during the first few weeks, when we were doing eggs every which way.
  91. It was somewhere in the mid-300s.
  92. Scary, right? But I was young and didn’t care. Now I take that shit to heart.
  93. Except that I haven’t had my cholesterol tested in almost ten years.
  94. But at least I don’t smoke anymore!
  95. I hope to age gracefully.
  96. It’s not looking good so far.
  97. Three more and suddenly everything matters, you know? How many slots did I squander? What tidbits have I left out?
  98. It’s a metaphor for something, I think.
  99. I love the smell of skunk.
  100. I was fluent in Hebrew as a kid, but I’ve forgotten it all. Shalom!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I think Ikea sells those

For homework every night, Ezra “reads” a book with me. I've got that in quotes because it’s kind of a fake-it-till-you-make-it exercise. Ezra can sound out some basic words (hat, bet, mom, fuck-a-duck, for example) and he’s got a growing list of “sight words” that he can identify, but he is by no means actually reading yet.

The point of the activity is partly to get into the routine of reading, and partly to see the way letters can be grouped into words and words can be strung together on the page to form thoughts--a concept that, over time, becomes so ingrained it's almost intuitive but does in fact need to be learned.

The books Ezra gets are about eight pages long, with no more than a sentence per page. The sentence structure and many of the words repeat themselves throughout. There is also a great deal of rhyming. He sounds out or recognizes some words here and there, but for the most part he is supposed to glean the words from the rhyming and repetition, as well as from the pictures--and then touch each word on the page as he says it.

As a result, the narratives sometimes take a surprising twist.

For example, there was one book called I Like, which ended with these three pages:

I like honey
[bear holding a jar of honey]
I like bread [bear holding a loaf of bread]
I like standing on my head [bear—you guessed it—standing on his head]

Ezra’s creative rendering of the text went like this:

I like honey

I like bread

I like doing yoga

Then there was Spiders, Spiders Everywhere, which featured this two-page spread:

There are six spiders on my head
There are seven spiders in my bed

Here's how it went when Ezra read it:

There are six spiders on my head
There are seven spiders in my couch

“Ezra,” I said, pointing to the word bed. “Do you see a 'c' at the beginning of that word? What does that word start with?”

He looked at the word, and looked at the picture again, and with great confidence, took it from the top:

There are ten spiders in my bouch.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Jesus was definitely not the word

Ezra’s sweet teacher called me back Sunday afternoon.

“Sorry I’m so late returning your call,” she said. “I had family in over the weekend, and today I was at church all day. We’re hosting a group of homeless women so I was helping to set up.”

For real, she said this.

And then she went on to say that the "word" that had gotten Ezra in trouble in the library last week was fuck-a-duck.

Except she totally pussied out and said f-a-duck.

I’m a little disappointed in Ezra. I’m bummed that he didn’t go great guns. Sure, he started out strong with the fuck, but then he went and ruined it with that lame-ass kindergarten rhyming action.

He was telling the truth when he said his friend Justin had taught it to him. That’s not the way we swear in this house. (Not that we ever swear, unless we’re mildly irritated or vaguely frustrated or really upset or trying to emphasize a point or tired, in which case the swearing is 100 percent justified.) When we swear, we do it with gusto; and I guess I expected the same from my five-year-old.

Truth is, I had kind of hoped that my cocksucker guess was balls on.

Monday, November 5, 2007

color me haggard

As if I needed more evidence that motherhood has taken its toll on me:

a) Last night as I was getting undressed, long after the kids went to bed, I discovered a crayon in my bra.

b) What with my formerly ample and now deflated boobs, there was room for it in that right cup--so much room that I didn't notice its presence until hours after it had been placed there.

And just the other day I was remarking to Stupid Daddy that my muffin top had become more like a fallen souffle. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

just one more reason that I love him

One of the most endearing things about Stupid Daddy is that he can build or fix pretty much anything. He's framed houses and repaired dishwashers and tiled back splashes. He's completely taken apart the engine of a truck and then put it back together again. In recent weeks, he's been busy winterizing our 100-plus-year-old home--heat-shrinking plastic wrap on some windows, replacing a couple of windows entirely, weather-stripping the front door, and the like.

Another incredibly endearing thing about him is that he loves to brush and blow-dry my hair. This, however, also happens to be one of the most annoying things about him, because invariably, he forgets that there are nerves inside my scalp, and that these nerves, they feel things.

So when he's brushing my hair and he meets some resistance from a tangle putting up a good fight, he just yanks harder. And when he blow-dries my hair, he focuses on getting that one section he's working on really dry, never mind that he's dangerously close to setting my scalp on fire.

Presumably, this activity is a prelude to s-e-x. It certainly gets him in the mood. Me, not so much. But then I'm also not one to request that he handcuff me to the bedpost and drip candle wax onto my nipples.

The other night, after a trip to the grocery store, I went upstairs to find Stupid Daddy getting Lilah dressed for bed after her bath--her hair, which is now well past her shoulders, obviously brushed out and bone dry. I became concerned for her well-being.

"Does she have third-degree burns?" I asked. "Or were you gentler with her because she's only two?"

"Shut up, bitch," he said. "You're lucky I don't use my heat gun on you."