Friday, August 31, 2007

I ended up taking a nap

Early this afternoon, Stupid Daddy, who works from home on Fridays, had a break in his schedule. I myself was in between naps had some free time as well. With all three kids in school, we decided to have at it in bed.

Stupid Daddy shaved and showered while I lay there, and then he got into bed with me.

"First," he said, "can you trim my eyebrows?"

I happen to be a serious picker. But even I know there's a time and a place for everything. Nonetheless, I obliged him. Such is my devotion.

"You know what's even better than getting a booger out of your nose?" he asked, just as I was finishing up. "Getting a booger with a nose hair attached."

Turn-on? Not so much. My boner was beginning to wane.

"And also?" he said.


"I have to poop."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm looking for work; would you like to hire me?

I'm a writer who, as of late, has trouble stringing together two coherent sentences. You can just forget about whole paragraphs!

I used to be a "detail-oriented" grammar maven with an eagle eye for the errant typo. But alas, those days are gone too. Now even the most glaring errors escape my notice.

It takes me forever to come up with the right word for something. I just retyped that last sentence four different ways--and there sure wasn't anything special about it. So I work really slowly and will cost you lots of money.

I know next to nothing about this so-called "Internet" and am afraid to learn.

My very small store of confidence is dwindling by the day. So much for an employee with a can-do attitude!

I want to make my own hours and work from home and I cop an attitude with bosses. Many companies have hired me for a project and then never asked me to work for them again. I called into work tired once. I got fired once.

Samples and references available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

a few more reasons why I love the boys in my house, even though when it comes to peeing, they can't aim for shit

The other night, at dinner time, I noticed Levi wasn't really touching his mac and cheese.

"Levi," I said. " You have to eat."

"So I can grow?"

"Yes, so you can grow." (And also so you can not tell me you're hungry just as I'm turning out the lights, and also so you can not be a hypoglycemic nightmare until then, but to a four-year-old, the need to grow is a valid enough argument for eating so I'll just leave it at that.)

Levi dug in. A few minutes after finishing, he and I were lying next to each other on the couch.

"Mommy," he said. " Am I five now?"


I was sitting on the back steps meticulously digging through our dog Harriet's coat with a comb--yes, a fine-toothed comb!--simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by the amount of dandruff I was stirring up, when Stupid Daddy pulled into the driveway.

"Having fun?" he asked.

"Oh my god, you wouldn't believe it," I said, without looking up. "Look at how disgusting this is!"

He glanced in my direction and kept going, right on into the house.

"You can't appreciate it because you can't see well enough," I called after him. "I wish you were wearing your reading glasses."

"I wish I shared your reality," he said, and shut the door behind him.


I was driving Levi and Ezra home from school and they were engaged in an animated discussion about how quickly they could get from point A to point B if they had wings.

"Levi," Ezra said. "If you had wings you'd be home before your eyes."

Silence for a couple of beats.

"Actually," he said, "before you know it."

Monday, August 27, 2007

I am a rock, I am an i-i-i-island, so is he, just a different one, you'll see.....

I haven't had much time to write lately; Stupid Daddy injured his back pretty seriously over the weekend, and between tending to him and the extra tending to the kids--damn, that's a whole lot of tending. (Thank you, I should be receiving my 900th credit card offer of the month notice of sanctification in the mail any day now.)

This injury continues the back trauma trend established early on in 2007. In January, Stupid Daddy herniated a disc. In March, he ruptured a different disc and had to have surgery. He went to physical therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic after these episodes. He stretched and applied herbal pads and changed the way he slept. It seemed he was doing everything he was supposed to. "Yet," to quote E. from The Incredibles, "here we are, dahling; here we are."

His working hypothesis, which I tend to believe even though I generally think this New Age stuff is bullshit don't think along these lines, is that it's psychosomatic. His body is crying out because he's not in touch, on a regular basis, with what he's feeling. He gets angry and depressed because of these injuries, but he also sustains these injuries because he's angry and depressed. As a result, he's pretty fun to be around most of the time, and a serious basket case every once in a while.

I, by contrast, am really in touch with how angry and depressed I am. Which makes me not so much fun to be around all the time, but never the kind of train wreck with whom I am now sharing my bed. (Hi, baby! I love you!) And my back! Oh, let me tell you about my back. It is so healthy I could do handsprings down the hall--if I were ever in a good enough mood.

He's like Hawaii. I'm like England. I don't mean that he's laid-back and I'm uptight (though, come to think of it, this is true). I mean weather-wise.

In conclusion, I think it should be obvious by this point that my island is better. Cheerio!

Friday, August 24, 2007

oh, look! here's the apple, right under the tree

After a string of happy days, Ezra told me he had a bad day at school yesterday. I didn't get a 100 percent coherent story, but it went something like this:

"I forgot what I was supposed to do. I lost my gold*. I walked up the slide. Tomorrow we get to do whatever we want but I can't because I lost my gold and I won't have a chance to get it back."

* They have some kind of bribery reward system involving earning pieces from the "pot of gold" for good behavior.

He was in tears by the time he finished.

When I was in eighth grade, my parents had a conference with my advisor, who told them, "I wish I could catch her whispering to the kid behind her in class every once in a while."

That's how I feel about Ezra. He behaves so well in school it's almost problematic. I want to hear from his teachers about some of that obnoxious disregard for rules spirit that he exhibits so frequently at home. I want him not to be so driven to please, so focused on meeting the expectations of others, so intent on being perfect.

So there he was, a single slip in playground etiquette, and he was devastated. I tried to give him a pep talk--the usual stuff about everyone making mistakes, you're still an awesome kid, blah blah. But he wasn't buying it.

Lots of days, still, I don't either. Maybe we'll learn to believe all that garbage together.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

wherein I crush my daughter's spirit

Lilah and I were hanging out in the kitchen this evening while the boys were having their brains sucked dry watching cartoons. I was cleaning up after dinner; she was sitting on the counter, watching me and sucking her thumb.

Suddenly she whipped her thumb out of her mouth, pointed to a fly at the other end of the counter, and then held out her arms. "Fly. Hold. Lap," she said.

"Oh," I said, laughing. "You want to hold the fly in your lap!"

"Yup," she said. Her arms were still outstretched and her eyebrows were slightly raised--a look of anticipation, and also of faith. When it became clear I wasn't doing what needed to be done to fulfill her request, she started her "inh-inh-inh" sounds. Translation: Goddammit! I mean what I say!

I tried explaining to that stupid bitch sweet, innocent, delicious baby girl that you really can't hold flies in your lap, no matter how much you want to. But in her reality, the scenario was entirely plausible. There was the fly, here were her arms and her lap, what was the problem? What I was saying made no sense; it was unfair, even cruel.

She lost it, in that histrionic toddler way, throwing herself back against the cabinets and wailing. With incredible focus. And persistence. And volume.

I was eventually able to distract her by promising that she could wear one of her brothers' shirts to bed tonight over her pajamas, and come on, little lady, let's climb the stairs together and pick one out.

I so hated to disappoint her.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

the inevitable clash between science and religion

Ezra has lately been fascinated with outer space, as are so many boys his age. Though I have little interest in outer space myself (I'm a girl and there are no relationships in outer space), his passion is mostly very exciting for me--I love to see him so enthusiastic and inquisitive. But it's also anxiety-provoking. Every time he opens his mouth, I'm afraid it's going to be one more question I don't know the answer to, or don't know how to answer in a way that he can understand.

For example:

"Why is outer space so cold if it's close to the sun?"


"If the planets have gravity, why don't they all come together?"

And as long as we're discussing gravity:

"If the water on the South Pole doesn't fall away because of gravity, why doesn't fuzz floating on the top of the water sink down because of gravity?"

Today, I had to contend with this doozy:

“Where in outer space is heaven?”

To which I replied, "Heaven isn’t really anywhere. It’s just a place people imagine." (I know, too literal, too realistic, so not fun. But that's me, in a nutshell.)

“Does someone drive people to heaven in a special car?”


"Well then how do they get there?"

"Some people believe that people go to heaven after they die. But not the body part of them; that gets buried in the ground. What’s inside goes to heaven."

"You mean their insides go to heaven but their skin stays in the ground?"

I give up.

Monday, August 20, 2007

little bits

Today is the first day that I have Levi and Lilah home while Ezra is in school. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. These two have bursts of wonderful play together in between long stretches of a men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus dynamic.

I suspect I'll be hearing a lot of "When is Ezra going to be home?" today.


As I was driving him home from school on Friday, Ezra said, "What I'm wondering is this. I'm wondering when I'm going to have a friend." (Kill me right now, why don't you, kid.)

More later.


[Updated to add:]

We had a peaceable, if somewhat unfocused, day together. One thing I realized is how much the kids and I have functioned--and dysfunctioned--as a unit. Having a piece of that unit missing is going to take some getting used to.

The other thing I realized is that taking care of two kids is ridiculously easy.

No comment from Ezra upon pick-up about making friends, but a radiant smile on his face nonetheless. And that was before the big hug he got from his brother.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

once again, my five-year-old renders me speechless

Ezra (as I am unbuckling him from his car seat): Mommy, does your penis ever stick straight up?

Me (thinking I'm cleverly derailing this line of questioning): Do I have a penis?

Ezra (after a pause): Does your vagina ever stick straight up?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

first day of school! first day of school!*

I spent a little time with Ezra in his classroom this morning, and we were both a bit shell-shocked. He and I stood still in the center of the room, turning around to check out the other kids and parents and observe the general chaos of the beginning of the school year.

When it was time to say goodbye, his eyes welled up and he tried to blink back the tears. That was the most heartbreaking part--that he was trying to be a big, brave boy.

So I told him he was being a pussy scooped him up in my arms and kind of lost it myself a bit. "This is such a big change," he whispered into my shoulder. And though my heart was already broken, this pretty much ground it to bits.

I told him it was okay to be scared and uncomfortable but my guess was he would end up having a great time. (I know, I know, there I go again being a fabulous mother, can I just stop already?) (No, I can't.) He nodded his head, and right at that moment the teacher was calling the kids to gather at the center of the room, and off he went.

When I picked him up in the afternoon, he had a big smile on his face. "Mommy, you know what?" he said. "I thought this was a really big change but it wasn't." I'm guessing that this is a honeymoon phase, and when it sinks in that he actually has to do this every day, he'll stage a minor rebellion. Even today, I got glimpses of serious ambivalence. On the way home from the library he said to me, completely out of the blue, "My hands are red and hurting."

"From what?" I asked.

"From cleaning up all that paper at school today." I could hear the scowl on his face. He was pissed; deep down, he's red and hurting too.

And when his grandma offered to dry him off after his bath and he said, "Why don't you wait and see how good a job I do before you mess with me," I could see that he is working through some stuff. Because despite what he says, it really is a big change--for him, for Levi and Lilah, and for his parents.

Still, for a first day, I think it couldn't have gone better.

*That's meant to be a reference to Finding Nemo, for those of you without kids who haven't seen the movie once or 500 times.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I ain't never satisfied

I took Ezra to meet his teacher last week, and now I'm not sure where I got the impression that she was stern and cold. She greeted Ezra with a huge hug and was incredibly sweet the entire visit, taking him around to the different centers, asking him questions, smiling and holding his hand.

Frankly, it was a bit too much. She was kind of fussing over him--all up in his face and not giving him the freedom to acclimate on his own terms. The worst part was that she didn't shift gears when he withdrew; she was oblivious to his cues. She seemed like she was in her own little rainbows-and-puppies world, la de da, la de da, and this was how she was going to be no matter what the reaction was.

Really, there is no pleasing me.

But! I still think she's going to be great, and in all fairness, he'd be shy and reticent around any new teacher. He's just that kind of kid. I bet he'll have a rockin' year with her--even though she explained that the children were going to be arranged in a semi-circle "kind of like an amplitheater."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

he doesn't know the half of it

The boys have been going through a phase where they can't seem to go two minutes without doing a little penis tugging through their shorts. Our policy has been to ask them if they need to go to the bathroom, and if they say no, to tell them to get their hands out of their crotches.

They're struggling with this restriction.

Today, Levi came up to me with his hand in the usual location and whined, "Mommy, my body makes me do this! All day long!" And then he collapsed on the floor in a heap.

I felt bad for the little guy. Here we are, trying to get him to conform to social norms so the world can be spared this obscene gesture. But he is the victim in all of this, a slave to his own incessant urges.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

moving into dangerous ground here, because we all know that dreams are completely boring except to the people who had them--and their therapists

Last night I had a dream about my friend Ivan. I met Ivan in my freshman year of college and was immediately smitten with his incredible intelligence and quirky sense of humor. He was also really sarcastic and snide, qualities which appealed to me but also scared the shit out of me. While I loved to hang around him, I was always worried that I wasn’t bitter or quick-witted enough, even though his geekiness should have canceled out my concerns. Somehow he managed to be an intimidating geek. Somehow he worked the geekiness in his favor. That's how cool he was.

Since college, we’ve gone our separate ways, he into the exciting world of academia, and I into the exciting world of…um…. Anyway, it’s kind of a shame because he’s gotten much nicer over the years. I would say he’s downright kind at this point. He has an awesome wife and twin daughters whom I've never met and now that I think about it, I really do miss him.

So in this dream, Ivan showed me a paper he was publishing on some obscure facet of Victorian literature. It was like 50 pages long—which, fine, some people find that stuff interesting. The problem was that he was including all of his edits in red—strikethroughs, insertions, changes in punctuation, the works—as a design feature.

That’s the way he explained it to me when I questioned him. “No no no,” he said. “It’s going to be really cool. It’s a design feature.”

And then the goddamn cat woke me up because she can't seem to find her way to her food dish on her own, and even if she could, it just wouldn't taste the same without my jostling the kibbles a little bit to release all of the chickeny goodness into the air.

I was really pissed at her, because I never got to find out how the dream ended. Would Ivan refuse to listen to the voice of reason? Or would I be able to convince him to publish a clean version of his paper, thus saving him from professional embarrassment? Would a giant rat suddenly appear, smoking a cigarette, and then lead us onto a boat where my fourth grade Talmud teacher was baking cookies with Carol Burnett? It was a total cliffhanger, and thus it shall ever remain.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

some things are just better left unsaid

Levi (thoughtfully, a propos of nothing, pausing between spoonfuls of cereal the other morning): I forgot to tell that person [babysitter who had just babysat the night before and whose name he couldn't remember] that flies move when you twist their heads off.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

truly no cause for, concern right?

Ezra got a card in the mail today from his new teacher. What a nice gesture! What a sweet thing for her to do! Except that all I can think about is how she told him it would be a "fun exciting, year."

But it doesn't matter that she has no idea where to put her commas. Right? Right? Kindergarten kids don't learn that shit. They don't even learn how to spell. They just make it up. Like, if I were in kindergarten, I would have written, "Thay just mayk id up," or something like that. And I would have gotten a gold fucking star for my efforts goddammit, or there would have been hell to pay and my attorney father to answer to.

Maybe she's great at teaching kids how to read. Maybe she can work wonders with pipe cleaners and googly eyes and glitter glue. Maybe she takes her class on nature walks, and listens well, and shows them by example how to be respectful. Maybe she smells good.

And I mean it. I'm not being facetious. I'm tired of falling prey to my own snobbery. It limits me; it limits my connections to other people. It's a defensive stance. I'm going to try to do it differently. Really try.

Monday, August 6, 2007

and it goes round in circles/one night is lovely, the next is brutal*

I really can't tell from one hour to the next what my mental/emotional state is going to be. I'm either feeling the love, loving life, living life, loving love, what a wonderful world, etc., or I'm dark and lethargic and brooding, all what-is-the-point existential, hopeless, useless, worthless, tired, blah.

Anyway, I spent the day at home with the kids, angry at myself because all I do is try to make it through, not planning activities, not actively engaging them, just keeping them fed and making sure they don't kill each other, peeking over the domestic wall of today into tomorrow, when they're at school and I've got several uninterrupted hours to myself, and then realizing I'm nothing with them and nothing without them too.

Can you guess which side of the see-saw I'm on right now?

* That's from Liz Phair.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

not your average sandbox conversation

Me: Hey, Levi, blah de blah blah blah.
Girl (about seven): Did you say Levi?
Me: Yup.
Girl: We have a cousin named Levi.
Me: Oh yeah?
Girl: Yeah. His brother died.
Me: Oh no. A long time ago?
Girl: No. Just the other day.
Me: How did it happen?
Girl: He shot himself in the face.
Me: .......

Friday, August 3, 2007

first I'm going to gripe some more, then I'm going to retract it all

The first thing on the list of kindergarten school supplies that we got in the mail was this:
"a standard size backpack (with out wheels)"

In what world is "without" two words? And how can I allow the people who inhabit that world to be in charge of my son's education?

(I saw that list and it scared me. But at the same time, I tried to keep that fear in check. Because I know about myself that I hate change, and I'll look for reasons to be disappointed with a new setup, whatever it is, rather than being open to its potential. I do have at least that level of insight.)

Today, after dropping the kids of at day care, I stopped in at the school to ask whether I missed anything important on Ezra's teacher's message. A wonderfully dear office biddy helped me out, and then the assistant principal came out of her office to say hello. She shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and seemed genuinely happy that I had come by.

When I asked her how the whole morning drop-off thing worked, she told me the parking lot was swarming with adults whose sole responsibility was to help kids out of cars and molest them in the woods behind the school usher them to their classrooms. She told me that most mornings, she herself was out there assisting as well.

I guess she sensed my bewilderment about kindergarten, my feeling nervous about my oldest starting there in a couple of weeks, my sense that the building was so enormous, the halls ten miles long. She said to me, "Don't worry; we'll take good care of him." And right then and there, all my concerns about his teacher assignment, thick Southern accents, the typo in the supplies list, the wee-ness of my boy in a seemingly vast institution, disappeared.

I began to believe that we'll be all right there, and that Ezra will do fine. My fears were just my fears. Completely with out basis.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

off to a great start

This evening, there was a voice mail message from a woman who is presumably Ezra's new kindergarten teacher. A thick, syrupy, Southern drawl voice mail, which, because I'm a snob from the Northeast, immediately turned me off. But let's be honest; isn't that justified? Doesn't everyone with a thick Southern accent have a borderline IQ? I mean, hasn't that been scientifically proven?

She was calling to welcome Ezra to her classroom, she said, except that she didn't call him Ezra; she called him Cameron. And then the message cut off mid-sentence, and there was no follow-up phone call.

Because of the way she spoke--have I mentioned her thick accent?--I was only able to discern her first name. But I went to the school web site, looked up the kindergarten teachers, and figured out who she was. It was the one teacher I didn't like when I visited the school, the one teacher I hoped Ezra wouldn't get. She was too brusque, it seemed, not enough warm-and-fuzzies. Conversations with other parents confirmed this impression for me.

Parents aren't allowed to make requests for specific teachers, but I had been told that it was okay to write a letter describing Ezra, and the school would do its best to match him up with the right kind of teacher. Which is what I did at the beginning of the summer. And not only did I write the letter; I also sent it!

In it, this missive of masterful prose, I talked about, among other things, the fact that Ezra had his own internal disciplinarian and needed someone with a heart, not some ice-cold beyotch less strict and more loving. (Stupid Daddy, who reviewed the letter, suggested that I explain that I'm Jewish and this level of over-involvement is to be expected in the coming years, and also that there is a lawsuit pending if the school missteps even a little, or if our son is not accepted to one of the "big three" Ivy League schools later on. I left all that out. They'll figure it out soon enough.)

So, okay, I guess my writing isn't as persuasive as I had previously thought. And I guess we'll tolerate this frigid spinster seasoned veteran of the public school system for a year. But is it too much to ask for her to get Ezra's Cameron's ?????? my son's name right?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I couldn't sleep at all last night

But I wasn’t thinking about Almond Delight. Remember that commercial? The dude was so amped about his breakfast cereal that he couldn’t get any shut-eye, and now he's dancing around the kitchen in his robe because it's finally morning? Why didn’t he just pour himself a bowl the night before and go to bed?

I had my bowl of cereal and still couldn't fall asleep until 3am, so I know it wasn't the excitement of breakfast keeping me awake. It’s been this way for a few weeks now. I’ve had brief bouts of insomnia over the years, but this is the worst ever. No matter how tired I am, I just get more and more wound up as the evening progresses. By bedtime, I'm bleary-eyed but completely alert.

And though I'm an anxious person in general, I don't really feel like I'm not falling asleep because of anxiety. It's more like now that I'm wide awake, what little nettlesome worries can I tap into in order to occupy my brain?

It would be one thing if, once I realized there was no hope of drifting off anytime soon and rose from the bed, I spent the hours banging away at the keyboard working on the novel that I started before Lilah was born and may or may not ever get back to. But I’m not doing anything remotely like that. Mostly, I’m reading celebrity gossip blogs (there, I admitted it) and Googling random people from my past, including girls I knew at summer camp 30 years ago. (Thirty years ago, holy shit, did I just say that? Did I mean it? Did I accidentally add an extra decade?)

And then, when I finally do fall asleep, I’m just rolling and thrashing and flipping myself from one side to the other, totally unable to settle in, like, Who came along and replaced my comfortable futon with barbed wire? But the thing is, when I open my eyes, the futon is still right there underneath me.

Now that right there is some seriously f’ed up shit.