Thursday, September 27, 2007

shocking semi-news

I kind of think I'm becoming nice.

These days, I say hi to people without waiting for them to say hi to me. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Yesterday at the dentist's office, I was gracious with the syrupy sweet and vapid hygienist whose attempts at chit-chat have previously driven me crazy. I've humbly reconciled with three important people in my life (even though, in each case, the conflict was totally their fault). The bitterness that I've lived with for most of the last 39 years seems to have just gone poof.

This is all extremely strange and disorienting. I've been so busy trying to acclimate to this new reality that I haven't had time to fully considered its possible ramifications or its probable causes (though an identity crisis, concerns about going "soft," and having more than one friend are among the likely candidates for the former, and a successful run with Zoloft and my approaching 40th birthday are certainly suspects for the latter).

I'll keep you posted as the story develops.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

mi casa es su casa

Ever since I became a mom, I've wanted to have the kind of house where the door is always open and the neighborhood kids freely and happily come and go. Partly this wish springs from an attempt to undo the past; I've got many painful memories related to my mother's inability to welcome people warmly into our home. When she put out a plate of food for my friends, it was never enough, and never interesting or fun. (At my friend Denise Rosenzweig's house, by contrast, there was Velveeta cheese and all kinds of Entenmann's products, which you got to eat while watching TV. Boy, did I love going over there.) Everything in our house was so clean and orderly it scared them; there was no precedent for the mess they might make simply because they were kids. And I still cringe thinking about my mother doling out tiny packages of Sunmaid raisins--one per customer--to the trick-or-treaters at our door on Halloween, and the look of utter disbelief on their faces.

The other, related motivation is the desire to ensure and to prove that I'm not turning into her, even though I hold grudges and I can be stingy and I worry whenever I get the chance.

Now that my boys are old enough to be somewhat autonomous and socially engaged, and we're finally settled in a house that is roomy enough to accommodate a lot of energetic bodies, it seems that day has arrived. That, and the fact that the Zoloft has kicked in and I no longer fear interacting with other human beings.

This afternoon, we had an impromptu visit from three neighborhood girls. Iris, who is nine, lives right next door to us and is over all the time. Pixie, eight, and her sister, Ava, who is six, live around the corner and had met the boys only once before. But that didn't matter. The chemistry was intense and instantaneous. For about an hour, while I straightened up the kitchen and cooked dinner, the five of them (Lilah was on a walk with my sister-in-law) moved as one--into the playroom, out to the back yard, up to the play space on the third floor, and back down again. They played school, the played chase, they played all sorts of games I didn't understand and couldn't begin to explain. There was squealing and laughter and chatter and zero conflict or discontent. When the girls left, Ezra and Levi were flushed and sweaty and so wound up they could hardly see straight.

There was some extra cleaning up to do tonight, what with the train tracks that made it into the sofa cushions, and the Legos on the back steps. And the hour before bed--with the boys at their Jackass finest, entertaining each other with "see food" and pretty much doing cannonballs in the bath tub--nearly killed me.

But it was absolutely worth it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

a; b; c; or d, all of the above?

I haven't had any time to write lately because Stupid Daddy is studying for a very important exam that he'll be taking later this week. I can't say anything more about it because I need to keep his professional life couched in a protective haze in case I say anything damning and his boss at the CIA finds out about it.

The impact of all this studying on me has been twofold. First, I have been dealing with the kids pretty much solo since Friday. Stupid Daddy has made it quite clear that until the exam is over, he will donate a half hour of his time at most each day to family matters, and I should be fucking grateful he's giving us that much.

And though I still enjoy complaining about having to do it all alone, to my amazement these 13-hour days haven't been as hard as I expected. The kids have been in generally good spirits. They've been going to bed early and easily. There have been lots of play dates and excursions, though it's true that there has been a lot of frozen food and TV as well. And also, tomorrow they're all in school.

Second, the stress has transformed my normally even-tempered and easygoing husband into a snappy, tightly wound, demanding, humorless, irritable, prickly bonehead. That's supposed to be my role in this relationship! Dude is totally stealing my thunder.

Friday, September 21, 2007

my kids, they make me laugh--when they're not making me cry

This evening, Lilah was in her high chair stuffing green beans up her nose.

Earlier today, Ezra had a tantrum because he was really tired I opened the "wrong" door to the minivan. He just kept screaming, "Open this door!" over and over. I left him in the driveway and went inside because I didn't feel like dealing with his bullshit. Several minutes later he switched tracks, and from the kitchen, where I was spiking my coffee with Patron loading the dishwasher, I heard him begin this chant: "Mommy, I'm getting tired of screaming at you!"

Levi was wandering around tonight taking pictures with my cellphone. Stupid Daddy came downstairs (fully clothed, mind you), and Levi delightedly exclaimed, "Ooh, Daddy! I want to take a picture of your penis!"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

small victories

Though Levi has been potty-trained since he was 2 1/2 years old, he still wears a pull-up at night. Often he wakes up soaked from head to toe, and there's a giant wet spot in the bed. Even when that doesn't happen, his pull-up still weighs approximately five pounds by daybreak. This must have something to do with the fact that he loves milk so much and also the fact that he's kind of lazy.

For a long time, he expressed no interest in doing things differently. In fact, if he had already gotten dressed for bed and needed to pee, he would just do it right there in his diaper--because why walk all the way to the bathroom when you don't have to?

About a week ago, Levi asked if he could wear underwear at night just like Ezra. We explained to him that if he woke up with a dry diaper a few days in a row, he would be able to. He uttered his usual whiny "Uhnnnn!!!"--the sound of him not getting what he wants--and then there was no more discussion about it.

Last night, after I tucked him into bed and turned out the light, Levi informed me that he had to go pee. So I escorted him to the bathroom and then back to bed. Twenty minutes later, he told me he had to pee again. I didn't want to jinx it by saying anything, but I kind of got the feeling he was going to go for it.

This morning, when I woke him to get ready for school, he mumbled, "I have to go pee," and then he sat right up and his whole face brightened because he realized what that might mean. He ran into the bathroom and pulled down his pants. I followed right after him and ripped off his pull-up, and I swear to God I have never seen that child with a bigger grin.

"Dry, mommy!" he said. Then he peed for like 20 minutes, and he giggled the entire time.

Also, this little nugget from Ezra; it was the first thing he said to me this morning and I have no idea what specifically he was referring to:

"Mommy, next time you have to scream at me can you do it in a nice voice?"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

a child's guide to discipline

The other day, Stupid Daddy was hanging out with the kids in front of the house, making sure nobody got killed. Levi and Ezra were racing each other down a narrow stretch of uneven brick sidewalk, Levi on the tricycle, Ezra on the scooter, so the chances for injury were pretty good.

And indeed an injury was sustained, but not how anyone would have expected. Lilah decided she wanted to ride the scooter and tried to grab it from Ezra as he was positioning himself for another run. He resisted. So Lilah did what any pissed off, powerless two-year-old with a full set of teeth but little ability with words would do: She bit him. Hard.

Ezra started howling, and Stupid Daddy came running. He scooped up Ezra and scolded Lilah.

"Lilah," he said, with a frown on his face. "No biting. No."

"Don't just tell her 'no biting,' Daddy," Ezra said through his tears. "Kick her in the head!"

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm pretty sure this is saying something

As part of their effort to develop the "whole child," Ezra's school gives "kid of character" awards to children who have consistently demonstrated the attribute o' the month. The August attribute was "respect," and Ezra received an award. I don't think he did anything to earn it other than be his pathologically shy, barely audible self, which his teachers kindly chose to interpret in the most favorable light.

The actual "award" is simply a piece of paper with all the relevant information color-printed on it. Nonetheless, we hung it proudly on the fridge--specifically, on the small patch on the side of the fridge that's not obstructed by cabinets, because even though the whole damn face of it is stainless steel (yes, you may kiss my feet), the side is the only part, inexplicably, that's magnetic.

Yesterday I put that piece of paper in the recycling and replaced it with a list of babysitters.

Friday, September 14, 2007

a cute little trifle for the weekend

Levi, spinning the globe Stupid Daddy purchased for our boys because we want to ensure that they get into Harvard they've recently expressed great interest in geography:

"Can you show me where our new babysitter lives?"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

some annoying blog comments I wouldn't mind getting

--Thanks a lot, stupidmommy. I just spit out my coffee/water/sangria. I think you owe me a new keyboard.
--My coffee/water/sangria is now dripping out my nose.
--OMG! If you keep making me laugh like this, my husband/coworker is really going to think I’m nuts.
--love. your. blog. love.
--Even though you're a total stranger [emphasis mine], I'm pretty sure you and I were separated at birth.
--There are so many comments already that I can’t read through them all, so I don’t know if anyone’s said this already, but….
--I saw your blog mentioned in the New York Times today. Frankly, I can’t see what all the fuss is about.
--nice but come see these barely legal asian sluts beg to get f**ked up the ass.

Well, that last one, not so much.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

but I do clean up nice

For as long as we've been together, Stupid Daddy has been mystified by my reluctance to get clean. He showers every day, and sometimes again before bed because he feels too "sticky" to fall asleep. (Don't get me started on how he won't wear wool because it's "itchy" and won't put on new clothes until they've been washed because of the "chemicals.")

I, by contrast, often go two days without showering. It's not that I don't like being clean. It's that for me, showering represents a serious time commitment, and I'd rather be sleeping doing other things. Stupid Daddy can shower in less than a minute, literally, and actually get himself clean, with a few seconds left over for recreational attention to his anal area. My showers have hovered around the seven-minute mark, even without anal stimulation.

Once, a few years ago, I asked him to give me a play-by-play so that I could work on my technique. I stood in the bathroom while he narrated from behind the shower curtain. He made it sound so simple. And yet, even after the tutorial, and with serious focus, I couldn't shave even 30 seconds off my time.

I think the thing that really slows me down is my hair. There's that whole routine of getting hair caught on my fingers when I shampoo, and then picking the hair off my fingers and sticking it to the shower wall, and then sticking it back to the shower wall after it reattaches itself to my fingers, and if you've got long hair don't pretend for even a second that this isn't a challenge you grapple with all the time, and then the whole process has to be repeated with the application of the conditioner and then again with the rinsing of the conditioner, and my god, how is it that I'm not completely bald?

Time-consuming, I tell you. Add to that the collection and proper disposal of said hairs after the shower, and then the collection and proper disposal of new hairs caught in the hairbrush or gracing the sink, not to mention the whole moisturizing of flesh and blow-drying of bangs, and I really do begin to feel quite strongly that showering every couple of days is more than enough.

Monday, September 10, 2007

overheard at the grocery store

Dude: Hey, man. How are you?

Other dude (possibly the father and/or brother and/or cousin of Miss Teen South Carolina): Hey, where ya been? I've been trying to reach you somewhat.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

and badder than ever

After a brief interlude of relative back goodness, Stupid Daddy's back is back to being bad. Yes, that's right; the bad back is back.

He's been in agony for about a week now, swallowing Percocet and Flexeril and Advil and Tylenol individually and in combination, with little or no relief. And yet, because he is who he is, in between voodoo sessions acupuncture and chiropractic appointments he soldiers on--lifting kids, loading the dishwasher, sitting as his desk for hours on end, driving long distances to and from work--even though he moves like he's trying to balance an egg on his head.

His tolerance for pain is remarkable. Once, several years ago, he was rearranging some stuff in the basement and dropped a window fan on his foot. It was an old fan and the bottom edge was made out of sheet metal, so essentially this was like taking a guillotine to his foot. He called to me from downstairs, "I think we might need to drive to the hospital...and can you bring a dish towel down here?" His tone was so casual that I ambled down the stairs, not in any particular hurry. But I hauled ass once I saw what had happened.

After waiting forever at the hospital--Stupid Daddy slumping across two chairs with his towel-wrapped foot resting on a chair back, a wee Ezra squirming in my arms--we finally saw a doctor, who poked at the exposed flesh and tendons and then injected Novocain directly into the wound with a needle that was approximately 20 inches long. (And believe me, I know 20 inches.)

Stupid Daddy's only reaction, as this was happening: "Wow, that hurts."

He ended up having surgery to reattach all the tendons that connect the shin muscles to the toes. Even he had to be knocked out for that one.

So tomorrow, hopefully, an MRI.

Friday, September 7, 2007

a package arrived in the mail yesterday

I love the note that came with it even more than the gift itself:

Actually, um, a lot more.

It's a checkbook wallet, which I've never had before and have been coveting for a while. Used to be that I preferred a small wallet that would fit it into a jacket pocket. But now that I'm a grown-up and I carry a purse (one of my least favorite words in the English language), I've been looking for something bigger. I'm forever misplacing my checkbook, and the wallet I've been using for the last several years doesn't have enough slots for the various credit cards and appointment cards and tenth-one-is-free cards that movers and shakers like me tote around, and they end up getting stuffed into the billfold, which means that when I open up my wallet the wrong way, it's 52 pick-up in the grocery store and at the gas station and wherever else goods and services are sold.

The leather of this particular specimen is like butta, and there's ample room inside for wads of cash and heaps of change and all manner of card and paper scrap. The problem is that while the green in the image on Stupid Daddy's monitor looked like that fresh, yummy, almost-lime-but-more-yellow-and-also-more-mellow kind of green, the actual green is muddy and jungle-y. (Don't you think I should write catalog copy?)

So we're going to sue the company ordering a different one. It's pink with red on the inside and also eight bucks cheaper. I'll let you know whether it's the one when it arrives. Sorry to leave you hanging like this, but there's really nothing I can do about it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

accentuatin' the positive

Yesterday as I was getting out of the shower, Ezra observed that I have a "hang-y butt."

Ouch, young man! That's the last time you'll be permitted to see me nekked, you of the spindly calves and sticking-out ears!

Actually, it didn't bother me all that much. I just kept reminding myself that last week, Levi told me I had "pretty eyeballs."

And now, I'm off to the gym to get my cheeks un-hung.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

fun times

Between my two boys, Ezra is generally way more sensitive. He feels anxious about being late for school, he rushes to defend our cat when Lilah tries to "play" with her, he cries when we watch Sophie's Choice Bambi, he blushes and looks down at the floor when he gets reprimanded. (Sometimes.)

Whereas Levi seems not to have a shred of remorse about anything he does, he delights in stomping on bugs and destroying spider webs, he's quick to recover from injury--whether it's a biting remark or a head butt to the belly. He's also incredibly affectionate and snuggly and he kisses like a pro; it's just that he comes across as so much less vulnerable than Ezra.

Yet Ezra, though he has been talking about death on and off for a while now, has always treated it very matter-of-factly. And Levi, well, here was Levi last night as I was tucking him into bed:

"Mommy, am I going to die?"

"Yeah, you are, someday."

He looked absolutely terrified and started wailing. (A small part of me was thinking, Poor child, and a small part of me was thinking, I have no idea how to have this conversation. But, to be honest, most of me was thinking, This better not keep him awake because if it does, I won't be able to get anything done tonight and he'll have a shitty day at school tomorrow.)

"But"--I'm such a quick thinker--"not for a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, reaaaaaaaaallllllllllly [hey, that was fun typing just then!] long time."

He calmed down long enough to ask, "Do girls die too?"

"Yes, I said. "Girls die too."

"Then I want to die with you!" he said, and started to cry again.

"Okay," I said. I wasn't going to press him on that one. And then he was quiet for a while.

"Mommy, what's going to happen after you die?" He pointed to me with his chubby little index finger.

"You'll be sad for a while, and over time you'll start to feel better again, and--"

"When people die, do they stop breathing?"

"Yes." More tears.

"I don't want to stop breathing!"

"Okay, you don't have to."

"I want to be alive so I can play with you, and Ezra, and Daddy, and Lilah." (Have I mentioned how much I love this boy?)

"Okay, you can do that. We'll all be alive for a long, long time."

"And when you die, is it forever?"

"Yes." His lip started quivering and he was trying so hard to hold back his tears so he could get out the next question.

"You don't come back alive?"

"No"--the floodgates opened again, so there I was thinking fast again--"but some people believe that you do."

"That's what I want to do."

At this point, Ezra leaned over the top bunk and asked, "When your heart gets tired and stops beeping, does it rest?" I had no idea he had been listening the whole time.

"Beating," I said. "Yeah, sort of."

"And then after it rests for a while it starts beating again?"

"Not usually, no."

"Oh," he said, and lay back down. See, to him it's just information.

Then Levi: "How do people come back alive?"

"I'm not really sure," I said. "Maybe they just think about it really hard."

"That's what I'm going to do. When I die, I'm going to think really hard about coming back alive."

That seemed to settle him, and then he planted a luscious kiss on each of my cheeks and rolled over.

But it left me thinking heavy thoughts. Not that this is anything new: Now that I have a husband and kids, I worry about death all the time. I have the same terror about it that Levi has. I feel the same sense of panic and longing, the wish never to be apart. It hurts, this love thing; it really does.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

if I could turn back ti-ime

This past Saturday, the boys slept over at their friend Oscar's. (Thank you, Ben and Katie!) I couldn't believe what a relief it was to have them out of the house, and what a joy it was to spend an evening with my little girl. We played with her dolls, we sang, we rocked out (she really likes to wiggle it, just a little bit), we read books. I nibbled on various body parts and blew raspberries here and there. Lilah tried on every available shoe. In between these activities, she kept me company while I cleaned the kitchen and straightened up the entire downstairs.

Notably and blessedly absent that evening was any mention of--let alone screaming about--the following: bodily excretions, ways to kill the enemy, superpowers, Spiderman, rockets blasting off into outer space, sibling's stupidity, injuries sustained in the heat of the resulting combat, and mother's unreasonableness vis-a-vis food offerings and bedtime.

What were we thinking, having those two boys first?