Thursday, January 31, 2008

um, what?

As I've mentioned a time or ten before, Iris has been banned from our house because of that thing we do where we feed kids a balanced diet and laugh with them and demonstrate love and in so doing brainwash them into being normal and healthy. Still, we see her many times a day. She comes over on her way home from the bus stop; she comes over when she's out looking the three pieces of random trash her crazy mother insists she collect every afternoon; she comes over when it's time to take out the compost after dinner; she comes over on her way back.

That she has managed these nighttime visits is perplexing to me. At 10:02 on the morning after Iris slept at Pixie and Ava's, Sonia called their dad complaining that Iris was supposed to have been sent home at 10:00 and why wasn't he honoring that. She also grounded Iris for an entire Sunday because she forgot her vest at another friend's house and had to go back and get it around the corner, thus throwing them off schedule by about 45 seconds. And yet somehow, Sonia doesn't seem to notice when a trip out back that should take two minutes regularly takes 20, because Iris is at our house eating our leftovers and watching TV.

Perhaps because she gets away with all of this, Iris has gotten bolder about her visits in recent weeks. For example, on afternoons when she has finished her chores and not been grounded for one reason or another, she'll tell her mother she's going over to somebody else's house but secretly come over here to play with our kids (and whatever other kids happen to be here) for a couple of hours. And she'll come over, too, on evenings when Sonia goes to Qi Gong to maintain her enlightened and loving state and has left Iris behind (which, in her mind, is perfectly acceptable now that Iris has a cellphone, courtesy of her grandmother).

One afternoon earlier this week, she came over thinking Sonia had gone for a walk. But the doorbell rang a few minutes later, and there was Sonia looking for her daughter. So Iris was busted. And grounded.

And then that evening, she came over to deliver this note:

Deb and Alex,

Iris told me that from time to time she decides to visit your home after school. Shall the situation occur again please ask and send her home right away. Thank you.

But then Sonia apparently thought about it some more and realized the note lacked the appropriate nuance, because today Iris came over with this:

Deb and Alex,
Iris has informed me that in the past you have had knowledge that she does not have permission to be over. I need to please have things honored when it comes to Iris. Thank you.
P.S. At this point I believe it is okay for her to occasionally come over. Once again I need honesty when it comes to Iris and when I make a choice about Iris for it to be honored. Iris does however need to come home after school. Thank you.

Yeah, okay. We'll get right on that.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

cringe along with me, if you please

For a few years in a row when I was in high school, my family went to a resort on St. John for winter break. One year, when I was sixteen, I became smitten with a guy named Roger who was on vacation there with his family. He was tall and handsome and in law school and I didn't have the nerve to talk to him; at that age, I didn't have the nerve to talk to anybody, really.

On New Year's Eve, there was free alcohol all over the place, and because the resort was contained enough, and because I never did anything impulsive or dangerous the way teenagers are supposed to, my parents trusted me to go have fun and stay out till I felt like coming home.

On that New Year's Eve, I drank lots of champagne, and so did Roger, and before I knew it we were making out on the beach, and then, because I was even more smitten after the kissing, I suggested we go for a swim, hoping he would realize that a spirited girl who could make such a suggestion--just totally off the cuff!--was surely a girl worth keeping.

He stripped down to his boxers and dove into the dark waves. As I watched him, I became suddenly stone cold sober, realizing that underneath my fetching, flowery, off-the-shoulder New Year's Eve dress, I was wearing really giant underpants.

Paralyzed, I yelled to him that I was too cold to swim, and after a bit he came out. We kissed good night and walked our separate paths back to our rooms, and I left with my family the next morning.

But the shame and embarrassment of that night didn't stop me from becoming still more smitten with Roger, whose address I got, when we returned home, from my parents, who had grown friendly with his parents over the course of the vacation, and to whom I wrote a letter professing my undying love for him.

Instead of blowing me off for the lunatic child that I was, he actually wrote back. I think I had some sense even then that this gesture was gracious beyond measure, even though all the letter did was dis me.

My mom visited last week and brought with her a manila envelope full of random things I had saved from that period of my life--postcards and photographs and matchbooks, and also the letter from Roger.

Part of it says this:

I thought I should write you. I won't even frame this as a response to your icky January note. You must have long since concluded that my silence was the only response you could expect.

I can't say I actually blocked out the Roger episode from my memory, but I also haven't thought about it in the intervening nearly 25 years either. I'm really glad I saved his note and have had a chance to review it now and allow all the painful details to come back to me with such clarity. I was starting to get just a wee bit full of myself, and it's helped knock me back down to size.

Monday, January 28, 2008

the way of the peaceful warrior

Ezra came home last Friday with a red plastic recorder that he had "bought" at the class store with points he had earned over the course of the week for good behavior. After wowing him with my jazzy rendition of "Hot Cross Buns," I handed it back to him and he began trying out various notes.

"I want to earn more money next week so I can get one for Levi, too," he said.

"Oh, Ezra," I began, touched at how thoughtful he was, though in the back of my mind I was also somewhat concerned about how much ibuprofen I would need to tolerate the sound of two little boys playing plastic recorders. "Isn't that so sw--"

"So they can be swords and we can fight with them!"

Friday, January 25, 2008

uber-Jew haiku

(or: Shabbat Shalom, Hey!)

Day of rest; hello?
God had no kids, or he had
a full-time nanny.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

question of the morning

Do I actually have conjunctivitis again, or is this extremely bloodshot look in my eyes merely the result of having been awakened by at least one child well before the crack of dawn every day for the last five days?

Only the three-hour nap I'm about to take will tell....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

it also hurts when I laugh

There's this mentally retarded young woman I see around town frequently; she works at the grocery store I use most often and also at the Y, where I spend a fair amount of time trying to un-sag my kneecaps. I've never heard her speak; she's usually busy sweeping or mopping or folding laundry, her strawberry blond ponytail swinging as she moves.

Last week I was at the Y taking a class in that self-torture some call Pilates, and she was in the corner of the room folding and stacking yoga blankets. We were all lying on our backs, legs straight up in the air, doing a set of one of Pilates' five thousand variations of a crunch. All of a sudden, this woman said, in the most elegant British accent, "Somebody's farted! Is it you?" And she pointed to some poor woman's bottom at the front of the class, and said, "Yes, it is you!"

She sounded kind of like Terrance and Philip.

Of course we all started chuckling, which in my case--since I am new to Pilates and my abodmen was already so sore it screamed if anyone so much as looked at it--was pretty painful.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

saving it for a rainy day

Over the course of any given day, I expend a lot of energy trying to keep my kids from killing each other; and then I expend a lot of energy complaining about how I have to keep them from killing each other. It's exhausting.

They do fight like crazy; there's no question. But there are also moments of great tenderness between them that I don't recognize as much as I should.

Like the other day at a birthday party, when all the kids were asked to line up, and Ezra and Levi automatically fell into place next to each other, and then without even thinking about it, Ezra put his arm around his brother's shoulder.

Like yesterday morning, when Levi sat down to have some yogurt and Lilah asked for some too, and instead of saying, "This is mine!" Levi offered to feed her some, and they shared the entire container, alternating spoonfuls.

Like today on the way to school, when we were talking about how one of Ezra's teachers calls him "Hot Wheels," and Levi said, "Hey Ezra, how about you be 'Hot' and I be 'Wheels,' okay, Ezra? So we can be a team."

I should stockpile these moments in my head so that when all three of them are clawing at each other all at once--which also happened today--I don't lose my shit. Or at least so I don't lose it all that much.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

letter to the subscriptions department

To Whom It May Concern:

Lilah received her complimentary copy of your magazine in the mail today.

Thank you so much for spelling her name correctly. Not every lad mag does.

She certainly seems to be enjoying it.

However, while the "gift of bocce" may indeed get you into a woman's "backyard" (p. 49), and while "Ring of Fire: An Oral History of the Daytona 500" (p. 92) is most certainly a thoroughly researched piece that brings this "thrilling, violent, whiskey-soaked" contest to life, and while I myself am dying to hear the "original American Gladiators tell all about their crazy days of spandex-clad superstardom" (p. 35), it is my belief that Lilah is a bit too young for these topics and the rest of the content within your highly respected magazine. As her parent and legal guardian, I will have to pass on a subscription.

You might consider trying us again in a few years, once she hits kindergarten.

Her MILFy superhottie vixen hot-as-a-monkey-in-a-firestorm mom

Friday, January 18, 2008


In two weeks I turn 40. I sure haven't been thinking about it at all. Not one bit! I mean, 40--what's the big deal? It's not like it's a milestone birthday or anything like that. It's not like it's the exact dividing number between youth and old age.

I remember when I was in high school, my dad decided he wanted very badly to get a red convertible and--less egregiously in retrospect, though at the time it seemed on a par--a suede jacket. He was closer to 50 then, but even as a kid I understood these impulses had something to do with that whole getting old/wanting to stay young dialectic.

Each of these purchases, and especially the two in combination, would have made him look like the quintessential JAP dad I so despised. You know the one: he's got tassled loafers and a cigar and a wife 15 years his junior, a daughter who wears a Rolex watch, which he gave her for her 16th birthday. Ewww.

Thankfully, I was able to talk my dad off that particular psychosocial ledge. That's because he valued my opinion more than anyone else's; I was kind of his wife. (You can read all about that in my book, which I won't link to because there's already a link over there, in the sidebar I'm modest about my accomplishments.) And that was the extent of his midlife crisis. Really, other than that one little blip, he was very graceful about getting old.

It's difficult to imagine what kind of mid-life crisis might emerge for me in these next couple of years, and how it will manifest. I've been entertaining an obsession with dying for a few years now. I'm already counting my wrinkles; I'm already panicking about the effects of gravity on various body parts. (Oh my god, my kneecaps are a disaster!) Besides, my entire adult life has been a string of crises (identity, faith, career path, hair color); what could I possibly do to top that?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

snow day activity

The snow turned to slush in a hurry and nobody had been especially fired up about going outside in the first place. So we spent a lot of time in our attic doing shit like this:

A bit later, the pants came off, and there were a few rounds of Sumo wrestling. None of it was all that much fun.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

haiku haiku (very meta)

Haiku, I love you
Your taut 5-7-5 frame
Challenging, sexy

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

squandering away the free time haiku

All three kids asleep
by eight: a first. Now what? I'm
lost, not used to this.

Monday, January 14, 2008

secret boyfriend #2

May I present to you...
Evan Dando.

He's the only serious bad boy on my ever-lengthening list, which I know you're dying for me to divulge all at once, in a deluge, a divulgence delugence, if you will (and Blogger, will you just stop it with your annoying perforated red underlines, your meek acceptance of the whole "spelling" paradigm), but I have to hold back because I need you, reader #1 and reader #2, to keep visiting me. I'm lonely.

Speaking of lonely, let's get back to Evan. Just--mmm. I actually met this dude right before he launched into drug-addled stardom. My college friend Ivan, whom I wrote about here, was friends with him in high school, gave the Lemonheads (Evan's first band) their name, and even graced the cover of one of their early albums.

During one of our breaks freshman year, we went to CBGB to see the Lemonheads play, and before the show, Evan came over to say hi to Ivan (which reminds me of that David Letterman bit at the Oscars whatever year that was--"Uma, Oprah," "Oprah, Uma"), and Ivan introduced me, and I was like, "Hi," and then back to staring at the table, because I was too shy and repressed to even pay any attention to the fact that an Adonis was standing right in front of me. Plus I was about ten pounds overweight (which, when you're 5'2", and you're me, is about 10% of your body weight, i.e., a lot) and growing out a really lousy short haircut.

Which sucks, because I'm sure if I had held his gaze for any length of time, he totally would have wanted to sleep with me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

notice posted outside the bathrooms

To the male tenants of this house who are under 6'2":

Could you aim just a little bit better? I understand that even the male tenant who is over 6'2" from time to time has difficulty getting every last droplet into the bowl. But really, you are taking things too far. There shouldn't be a puddle of pee behind the lid, or a spray of pee on the inside of the lid, or a rivulet of pee running down the wall behind the toilet, or a desiccated patch of pee in that cozy little nook at the base of the toilet that I must have missed the last time.

Is this some sort of game? Do you pretend you are hosing down the front porch on a dusty summer day? Do you pretend you are firemen dousing some raging flames? Do you compete to see who can keep the most pee out of the bowl? Do you pee with your eyes closed? Are you even facing the toilet?

I truly am curious to know how it happens. But mostly, I just wish it would stop.

The Management

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

at least the hair will grow back

Last Friday, Sonia discovered that Iris had a case of head lice. Saturday morning, the two of them loaded the car with every towel, sheet, blanket, and article of clothing they have (which, granted, didn't amount to very much, but still). Sonia spent the day camped out at the laundromat, while Iris was under strict instructions to stay inside. (An entire day alone in an empty apartment. It's a wonder this girl isn't totally insane.)

Saturday night, Iris got her first RIT treatment; Sunday she got a second one. (I'm actually surprised Sonia didn't just treat the lice with lavender oil and cleansing breaths and an additional ten rounds of toe-tapping, though she might have used all these as well.)

Iris also got a haircut, poor thing. Her bob-with-bangs is now a kind of pixie-ish boy cut. She looks like Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, very overdue for a trim. Also, with severe bedhead. Also, with a bunch of random longer hairs that got missed. I think I'm going to ground Sonia for doing such a sloppy job.

(Okay, she doesn't really look like Mia Farrow at all. I just told her that to make her feel better. Of course, she had never heard of Mia Farrow, so on one of her secret visits I showed her a film still online. "Did she get really rich and famous?" she asked. She seemed pleased with the comparison.)

Ha ha ha, right? I mean, could the universe have come up with a crueler joke to play on such an unpleasant OCD-bedeviled woman? Sonia's daughter--lice! It's funny!

Except for one thing. I'm not convinced Iris ever had lice in the first place. It's entirely plausible that Sonia imagined the entire thing, after observing Iris scratching her scalp for half a second at dinner time.

The roach colony I let loose in their kitchen while they were away over the break? Now that's for real.

Monday, January 7, 2008

secret boyfriend #1

These are not going to come at you in any particular order, but I did feel I had to put John Krasinski first, since he's my most recent crush, and perhaps my most active.

I've only started watching The Office in the last couple of months, but I'm totally hooked, in large part because my heart melts whenever this guy appears on screen. Conveniently, Stupid Daddy has a crush on Pam, further proof that we are totally a match made in heaven, because when we have sex, we're fantasizing about besherts in an alternate universe.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

how low can you go?

Today we went to the mall to get the kids some haircuts. We got there around 11am, and while the mall itself was open, the stores didn't open until noon; nobody wants to interfere with church.

I wandered into the adjoining department store to marvel at how horrible my skin looks under fluorescent lights squeeze my blackheads look at lipsticks while Stupid Daddy watched the brood. When I came back twenty minutes later, all three kids were flat on their stomachs on the skanky carpeted mall floor, each reaching an arm into the darkness under one of those carts that dispense a handful of candy for a quarter, scavenging for pieces that had spilled out--or been spit out--and left there. And their mouths were moving; they were finding enough to keep them busy.

"That's so disgusting," I said to Stupid Daddy, who was sitting not ten feet away, keeping an eye on them.

"Yeah, it is," he agreed amiably. "But look how content they are."

I was kind of conflicted. If you've ever taken three little kids anywhere in public, you know that keeping them quiet and entertained is a challenge. So on the one hand, I could definitely see his point. But on the other hand, Ewww.

I resolved my ambivalence by simply walking away, window shopping through the stores' locked gates, and pretending I was in no way attached to them.

Friday, January 4, 2008

my three scapegoats

I bitch a lot--inside my head and outside, too--about how my kids take up so much of my time and energy that it's simply not possible to do the things I really want to be doing--like working on that novel I started almost three years ago and abandoned when I was in my third trimester with Lilah, like getting my freelance writing career up and running again, like really going for it with the photography.

It's quite handy having them around. The truth is, even if my kids were easy, even if they were older and way more self-sufficient, even if I were not chronically sleep-deprived (six years and counting) because of their various nighttime traumas, even if I didn't have any kids at all, I don't think I'd have the motivation or courage to do any of those things anyway.

So: Sorry, kids. It's really not your fault. But you're Jewish and genetically predisposed to being scapegoated anyway. It's in your blood. If anyone can handle it, you can.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

post mortem

There's this picture Stacy took of herself (um, I think that's called a self-portrait?) that's so worth clicking to I'm not going to let you off the hook by describing it here.

When I first came upon that photo (see, I'm giving you a second chance) a few months ago, I thought to myself, There is no way that is humanly possible; she'd never done this except for right at that moment, for the benefit of the camera. After spending a couple of days with her, all I think when looking at it is, Why did she not also show herself crocheting with her toes?

My god, this woman can multi-task. For example: Yesterday, at the very craziest time of day in what I'm sure she now agrees is a very crazy household, there she was, an island of focus and follow-through amid the crashing seas of 6pm ADHD chaos--dogs barking for their dinner, kids barking for their dinner, dogs barking for the kids' dinner, spilled milk, mischief, tears, foot races, fist fights. In this milieu, she managed to do the following all at once:

1. sit with her laptop up at our counter, tweaking a short story she had been working on for her MFA program, apparently making progress;
2. keep Lilah in check, gently redirecting her as she stood on a box of cat litter in the pantry, holding the dish of cat food and attempting to hand-feed Ramona, Eloise, and herself;
3. grab her camera, which was within arm's reach, and shoot something that had caught her eye; and
4. respond more or less appropriately to my various sighs, grunts, and Oh, shits in the kitchen while I attempted to do the following all at once:

1. get my kids fed (which, all right, in the interest of maintaining my standards of truth-telling and never exaggerating about anything, I'll admit I managed to do);
2. tidy up in the kitchen, instead shuffling things from here to there on the counter top, incapable of deciding what to do with the half-eaten sandwich, the box of granola that had about a tablespoon left, the three crackers, the almost-dry plastic containers, the possibly relevant/possibly irrelevant post card from preschool about an upcoming family dinner, and pretty much everything else I came across;
3. prepare the kids' lunches (in Ezra's case, a wasted effort, since today turned out to be ANOTHER GODDAMN SNOW DAY), instead simply inventorying the contents of the fridge, then the pantry (oh, hi, Lilah!), then the fridge again; and
4. decide which calls of distress from the playroom were worth tending to and which I could responsibly ignore, and in the case of the former, completely forgetting what it was I had been attempting to accomplish before the interruption.

It was a remarkable study in contrasts.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I'm all excited today, because this evening, I will be picking up Stacy at the airport, and then she'll be staying with me for a couple of days until her MFA program starts at Warren Wilson College.

(At least, that's the plan. It's pretty gusty right now, and the Asheville airport is a pussy of an wee and sensitive airport that shuts down if somebody farts in Guam.)

I'm kind of nervous too, since I've never actually met Stacy. We only found each other in the blogging universe, sometime over the summer; I can't even remember how. (I do recall that she made the first move, commenting on my blog before I knew about hers.)

No, I'm not worried she's going to steal my small collection of knotted up necklaces and tacky bejeweled pins my grandmother gave me diamonds and pearls (but just in case, I'm hiding my jewelry box), or that she'll mow us all down with the machine gun she's tucked away in that suspiciously heavy piece of luggage, or even that she'll just be unpleasant.

I just know she's an awesome lady. What I'm worried about is that in person, I won't live up to that dazzling online persona that has so entertained and beguiled her these past several months. I mean, it takes me minutes to compose one sentence; translate that into the spoken word, and you've got yourself some pretty slow conversation.

Mostly I've been channeling my anxiety into cleaning the house, with Stupid Daddy's help and Lilah's interference, in anticipation of Stacy's arrival. At least she won't be able to say the sheets weren't clean.