Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Degree of Difficulty

The Cat and The Comforter (and its cover)
B and I struggle, as every modern family does, with The Changing of the Comforter Cover. We have a cat, so this should be done every couple of weeks. Unfortunately, it is not so. We used to try to do it together: Debacle. She or I would end up standing on the bed, lifting things and shaking them, trying desperately to communicate what assistance was needed, and eventually becoming so distraught we needed the other to leave the room. This lovely language of ours (English) just does not have words for the manipulations that must be synchronized during The Changing of the Comforter Cover. Eventually, we determined that The Changing of the Comforter Cover, like so many of life's difficult tasks, had to be done alone.

Recently, I got a job. (Yay!) Since then, the one thing I have insisted on, which B grudgingly agreed to, is a maid service. They come every two weeks, and one time, they even attempted The Changing of the Comforter Cover. They did it wrong, of course, but who can blame them? They're maids, not superheros! I was grateful that they'd even had the courage to look at the damn thing.

All of our comforter covers have holes in them. (Did I mention the cat?) I'm not sure, since they're so worn and clawed, why it matters to us that they be changed every so often. But it does. Of course anytime someone attempts The Changing of the Comforter Cover, the cat comes to cause trouble. She (the cat) is terrified of all strangers, vacuum cleaners, and feather dusters, but I'm sure she showed up when the maids attempted The Changing of the Comforter Cover. Why? Because that is What She Does. One of her primary purposes is to disrupt The Changing of the Comforter Cover. This purpose is a higher purpose (It must have something to do with the cat/fabric ecosystemic balance.), and it takes precedence over hiding from strangers (even those with vacuum cleaners) and other less important duties, like getting stuck places and making us crawl all over the floor, appliances, and furniture searching for her. Somewhere in her pea-sized brain, she (the cat) decides that she will put aside her vacuum/stranger phobia and take one for the team, courageously disrupting The Changing of the Comforter Cover time and time again.

Of course, I was not here to witness the disruption, but I know it must have happened. I know it in my bones. I almost wrote the maids a letter of apology, on the cat's behalf. Instead I just tried not to be too disappointed when the maids did not attempt The Changing of the Comforter Cover the next time they came. They are, as we said, maids, not goddesses.

Something about this whole thing reminded me of a trip to the refrigerator I made the other day. We eat a lot of fruit in my family. I'm obsessed with oranges. B is obsessed with apples. Ari is obsessed with grapes. Sometimes, there is crossover. The honey crisp apples B has been bringing home lately are worth stealing. So, the other day, I opened the refrigerator, and there was the biggest apple I had ever seen. I was terrified. It was so big it might have been a pumpkin! I immediately thought of eating it, of course, as one naturally would, but then I became so concerned about How It Had Come To Be that I was too grossed out. I mean, what the hell did somebody have to do to grow such a thing? Did they feed it blood? Inject it with steroids? The possibilities are staggering.

What does this have to do with The Changing of the Comforter Cover? Just: navigating one's household is a dangerous thing. Even if one doesn't have an anxiety disorder, the degree of difficulty in just, like, subsisting -- eating apples and changing bedding, for instance -- is massive. I was alone when I was frightened by the apple, and I don't even try The Changing of the Comforter Cover anymore if I'm not alone, but there is an un-aloneness in both of these. After I explained the apple incident to B, she apologized earnestly for having left it there to frighten me, in a way that only a woman who understands me could have. Whenever I change the comforter cover, I'm given treats and praise and gratitude. So, it doesn't seem so bad. This life, with all its first world problems, can be difficult, and I, for one, am glad I'm not doing it alone.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Casanova or Klepto

Insert paragraphs about not blogging for centuries here.

The other day, I went to my son's preschool parent/teacher conference. For the purposes of this appointment, I paraded as the parent. I was terrified. My son is willful, we have determined. It would be a learning difference, only he is too happy about it. He is three and a half. He does not listen. He will not wear anything he does not want to wear. (I know: you think that sounds reasonable, don't you? Fool!) He wants to be a daddy when he grows up. He does not wish to hold a job. He insists he will have some number of children which is greater than 6 and less then 8,000. He kisses everyone. He says, gleefully, "Let's share germs!!" and runs at you with arms outstretched. I do not know who taught him this particular phrase, but I have my suspicions. Lately, he comes home with his pockets full of filched toys (small ones, obviously) from school. He also likes to drag girls into the bushes, tackle them, roll around with them, pin them to the floor (Horrid!), and touch their faces. He would do this with boys, too, I am certain, only he doesn't spend much time with them because they do not wear enough purple.

Spending half an hour with his teachers was the last thing I wanted to do. They are lovely people, patient and energetic, smart and kind. But my child is not easy. I wanted to play sick. Surprisingly, their biggest complaint was his kissing problem. His victims adore him and beg for more, but their parents freak. I can understand that. The teachers, Ms. Evelia and Ms. Saba, didn't seem to know he is a kleptomaniac. Evidently, he's good at it. They aren't wild about his refusal to sing except (loudly) at nap time. But generally, they haven't figured out just how impossible he can be. Lucky me!

Ari has a telephone he drags around. One of those ones they had when I was a kid, too. It has eyes that roll around and a string to pull it with and wheels and a dial to spin. He somehow knows it is supposed to be a phone even though we've never had a land line in his lifetime. In fact, I don't know where he could have ever seen a phone like that. The doctor's office? Probably, yes, it was there, since he spent every other day there until he was three, deathly ill with whatever latest virus we all shared. Anyway, he knows the thing is supposed to be a phone, and he even knows how to pick up the separate receiver and talk into the mouthpiece and dial the damn thing. But mostly, he begs to sleep with it (No! Strangulation risk.) and calls it "Jarzay." This is pronounced, "JAR-zhay," which rhymes with "Tar-jay" (soft, french J), which is a store we often go to. I am sure that you must go there, too. Today, B asked Ari if he wanted to bring Jarzay to show and tell. This week's show and tell must begin with the letter J, so B was explaining to Ari that he had to tell his class that it was Jarzay, not just any telephone, since telephone does not begin with J. Ari said, "Jarzay is just a telephone by accident. She has a phone attached to her, but that's not really her." Or somesuch existential thing that no three year old should be saying. When things like this happen, I get so confused. Are we really here, my wife and I, discussing the limitations of the physical body with our three year old? Or are we somewhere else, doing something that makes sense? And even if we get him to introduce his telephone to the class as "Jarzay", is anyone going to accept that? Or will they all just say, "It's a phone, you foolish boy! That doesn't begin with J!" And if I have given birth to the youngest existentialist ever, then why don't I have the mental capacity to think of anything else we own in our endless masses of possessions that begins with the letter J?

While Ari has expanded his repertoire of strange habits, I've been comforting myself by thinking of my own. When I was two (I'm told.), I decided to call my mother "Meredith" and would not call her anything else for a year. When questioned, I just told people that was her name. If Ari did this to me, I would put him in time out. Thankfully, he doesn't. I did not have a telephone named Jarzay, but I had a doll named Tanya Lois. I ripped off all her clothes and pulled her hair out, one strand at a time, until all that was left were a few red bangs and her bald, rubber head. I chewed on her hands until they disintegrated. Still, I claimed to love her, and if anybody touched her, or even looked at her, I would start shrieking obscenities (and yes, I was only 2) at the top of my lungs. I don't think I wanted to kiss anybody, but I ran away whenever I could, and I did not stop running, the way a toddler is supposed to when she notices she's alone. I had other issues, as well. I can't remember them all, but it is a comfort, somehow. Don't you think?

Like mother, like son. Freaky is as freaky does. Something like that.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

He Kissed a Boy

B and I saw some exceptionally horrid parenting at the beach, and I'm not being picky. There was shocking negligence: parents leaving their non-swimmers in the baby pool while they were several hundred yards away, doing god knows what. Seeing this, after reading 5,000 signs all saying non-swimmers have to be in arm's reach of an adult swimmer, made me understand why they have to print the signs. I read somewhere (Freakonomics?) that pools are more dangerous than guns, and I believe it. I pay such literal attention to everything I'm told about How Not To Accidentally Kill Or Die (Gee, you know, because it seems kind of important!) that I asked my pediatrician if it was safe to have the baby in a diaper while he slept. Because she said there should be "nothing in the crib." Imagine my confusion when she said he could not only wear a diaper, but could also wear tight fighting clothing, be wrapped in a swaddle, and suck a pacifier! Plus, there could be a fitted sheet on the crib mattress! That seems like scads of stuff to me, certainly more than "nothing." The pediatricians need to take note that, though 90% of parents ignore the SIDS recs because oh, the bumper is so cute, and the baby has to have a lovey, there are a few like me, who actually listen. So, like, pediatricians: mean what you say.

I've been told and told that I'm too literal, which pisses me off because, hey, should I take that literally? I remember when I was twelve I was allowed to swim in our neighborhood pool without adult supervision, and I thought that was an arbitrary age. I had been a good swimmer for years, and I could still just as easily drown as before. I would read the "swim at your own risk" sign and panic just a little. I would envision myself suddenly losing consciousness mid-stroke due to I-don't-know-what-undiagnosed-illness, and I would think I could drown at any moment. Now that I have a child, this instinct is more refined and focused. I have a laser gaze, which hones in on Ari's mouth and nose in relation to the water level, and I use it all the time. This causes me to walk into things, but never mind the bruises, or the toppled pile of stuff I knocked over, or the stares of others. I have Locked On. I do not remove my eyes from his face. There could be a hydrogen bomb or a tornado, and we could all get sucked out of the pool and carried to Kansas, but that boy's airway would be Above The Water Line, goddamnit.

This, to me, seems like normal parenting. Making sure that the kid doesn't drown and all. But parents get so tired, and when they come to the beach, they just lose their minds a little bit.

Ari made a friend at the beach. His name was George (changed, of course, plus I don't remember), and he was almost exactly Ari's age. George and his parents, who were actually pretty attentive, hung out at the same kiddie pool we hung out at, so Ari got to know him. Then they started making out. (Ari and George, I mean. Not the parents--they were too tired.)

The make out preparation was always the same. Ari would begin making animal noises, and George would, too. The animal was always some cross between an elephant and a police siren. Then the boys would start smiling and walking towards each other, making the noises and puckering their lips. When they were two inches apart, their mouths would be, well, on each other. And they would just stay there like that, making the animal noises, kissing, and giggling. George's parents seemed both too exhausted and too cool to care. I was surprised, but thought it was pretty cute. George was a good-looking little boy who never hit or screamed, so what did I care? Seriously. Priorities, people. Three year old boys making out is not a catastrophe. Nobody is going to get pregnant, and every three year old has 38 cold sores already.

However. Some people gave looks. The parents who seemed most upset by it were a pair from Rockville (Everyone at the beach resort we went to was from the DC area.) who did not function. The husband was a skinny, poorly-attired man named Larry (changed, of course). The wife was a shrieker who yelled at Larry for being unhelpful, but then would not allow him to help. They had two children. One of them was four. His mother said he had special needs, but from what I could see, his only need was better parenting. Example: The boy (Nate--changed) had a pool noodle and kept poking it into other kids' faces. His mother told him to stop. He kept doing it. She told Nate that if he did not stop, she would Take The Noodle Away. She made sure that he heard her and understood. So far, so good, right? But then! Nate did it again, and his mother DID NOT Take The Noodle Away. Why not? Because she sucks. Thus, poor Nate has special needs. It all seems so simple, in my head. Of course, in the moment, it is Not Easy to Take The Noodle Away. But what choice do we have? We must put down our drinks, get up off of our lazy asses, and wrench that noodle away, pronto, right now, no matter the screams that will ensue, because That Is What We Said We Would Do. We have to mean what we say.

Hours later, after Nate had traumatized the entire kiddie pool with his noodle, I ran into his mother in the ice cream line. She apologized for Nate's behavior, saying he'd been hungry. I wanted to say so many things. I wanted to tell her that she needed to speak to her husband more kindly, that she needed to let him take the boys while she went to the bathroom instead of shrieking about how she couldn't even leave for a single second. I wanted to tell her, above all, that she should have Taken The Noodle Away, that a parent's first duty is to say what she means and to mean what she says, but I said nothing. Who was I, to her? There was nothing to say. My biggest problem was that my son liked to make out with George in public, with siren/elephant noises to ensure everyone was watching. Hers was lack of follow through, and a son who bullied with a noodle, for now. We were worlds apart. But I think of her, now, when I'm tired and don't feel like Taking The Noodle Away.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Running as Mistress

Those of you who know me understand my feelings on exercise, especially running. Self-mutilation disguised as yuppie fulfillment. Imagine my surprise the other day as I found myself doing it. Let me begin at the beginning.

For the past couple of months, B has been exercising. She goes to a gym and uses a treadmill. Also, she suddenly loves music and has been kind enough to share the stuff she finds with me. Finally, her pushing about Madonna got to me. Of course, I've heard of Madonna, but I'm one of approximately seven people on earth not to have strong feelings about her. B kept revisiting the topic, and eventually I had to be swayed.

It is under these ideal circumstances that I began to walk. I don't know what got into me. Maybe it was my desire to have my pre-baby stomach back. Maybe I was just imitating my wife. Or, more likely, I saw it as a way to escape from the mommy chores for an hour without judgement. Leaving The House, when you are an unemployed mommy, becomes very important. It doesn't really matter what you do. Even going outside to take the trash or get the mail becomes a thrill because there is that shock/fear/pleasure of being Away From Your Child that reminds you of who you used to be before him.

The weather had cooled. I was frustrated at my lack of job offers. I was sleepless due to the family's latest stomach virus. I was unemployed and had time. So, I walked. I did this evenings, after the sun had set, and sometimes mornings, too. After a few days, I was out one evening, walking as quickly as I could, and I couldn't get my heart rate up. I couldn't walk any faster without running, so of course the thought occurred to me to (Blasphemy!) run.

I'm ashamed to say it, but I began to entertain the notion. I considered all the harms that would surely come to me: a stitch in my side; a pebble in my shoe; a tiny little cut on my toe turning into an enormous, infected blister; early onset arthritis; stress fractures and so on. I sighed. I was alone on the street. No one would see me. I could keep my run-hating cred. Maybe I would just try and see what happened, whether the All-Engulfing Misery would overtake me, as usual, within the first six steps. And if it did, I could go right back to hating exercise in all forms, especially running. As you see, my hopes were not high.

So, I ran, just this once, for maybe 400 yards. Then I walked. Then I ran some more. I was sore from so much walking, and I found the muscles running used were different from the sore ones, so that was nice. Also, I was panting in no time, which was, after all, the goal. I was hot and sweating, and my fancy black muscle shirt did something neat and new-fangled to help me stay dry. It was cool. I passed some older women on the street and felt like telling them, "Look at me! I'm running!" Nothing hurt. I was going a decent speed, one that no one could mistake for anything other than running. And then! Just when I was getting comfortable and feeling safe about the whole thing, like nothing untoward was going to happen, I was seduced. Euphoria is all that can be said. I felt like I was gliding. I felt beautiful and strong and free. I felt like the star of a Nike ad. Even though the whole thing lasted only 120 seconds, I knew I would be back again and again, looking for that same feeling. Some unknowable lover had gotten into me and made me its bitch.

So now I run.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Analysis of Sid (the Science Kid)

Sid is a biracial boy (cartoon, of course) of indeterminate age. He acts 7ish, but must be in kindergarten, since the kids seem unable to write. I think this is an attempt to interest the preschool set by having the characters older (and thus, cool) but with similar experiences to your standard preschooler.

Sid's mom drops him off at school, and his grandma picks him up. His dad is around, but does not prepare meals, pick up, or drop off. He fixes things, and he helps with the kids, but in the kitchen, he does not cook or clean.

Sid is very attached to his microphone, which does cool things like reverb and record. He is playful and happy and sweet to his baby brother, Zeke. What the writers do well is combine Sid's enthusiasm with lots of tenderness and gentle curiosity. He is a Myriad of lovely Contradiction and the only character who escapes the stereotypes of race and gender.

Sid has three friends at school. The boy, Gerald, is all heavy metal and boisterous. He shouts a lot, and is a bit of a ruffian doofus, but he is kind to the others. There are two girls: Gabriela, who is basically just a poorly-fleshed out soccer jock; and May, a meek little librarian type. (She's everyone's favorite. If she were a real, adult person, she'd be a bad-ass knitter vegan who knew lots of useless, charming things. You would like her until you found out she had an ugly-ass, old man for a boyfriend, and then you'd be all yucked.)

May and Gerald are both cute and interesting, but Gabriela is dull. The creators could have escaped the Latina stereotype by having her be the nerd instead of May or by having her like badminton or cricket instead of soccer. Clearly, they need me to help them realize the error of their ways.

The parents are a little too patient with Sid, and their purpose is clearly to make the rest of us look bad. The dad doesn't mind a bit when Sid stops holding a flashlight which leads to dad banging his head on something. The mom and dad both seem practically blissed-out when Sid pulls out the bedtime delays. They fawn over all of his stupid ideas. Yes, I know. You are saying, "Isn't that a parent's job?" Sod off. We're tired.

The teacher is never around while the kids are at school, and when she is, she is singing some dumb song or another about some trippy thing, like breathing. During these interludes, the scene changes to ridiculous space lava flower land. The woman (whose name I forget) is clearly on drugs, and in real life she'd be fired. Also, no way does a school have a class size of four.

Obviously I let my son watch this thing, or I wouldn't know nearly as much about it as I do. There are worse things on tv for preschoolers, and I know this. But is it too much to ask that somebody produce something that doesn't portray gender and race in such stereotypical ways?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Is there something in my teeth?

B and I have high standards when it comes to sincerity. Specifically, I prefer her to be honest with me at all times, except when I prefer her to lie. The times when she should lie are (to me) self evident--such as, some weeks ago, when I was discussing what sheets I wanted to buy for Ari's bed. In this tricky situation, she was supposed to appear extremely interested, while simultaneously having no opinion whatsoever. If she'd had her own opinion, I would have feared she might actually want some say in the sheets, and that Ari would end up with either black or brown woolen, vintage sheets from a stoop sale in Brooklyn.

This particular instance of the sheets was one of our conflicts. I wanted to buy Ari sheets, and B said, "go ahead," and I felt she did not care about our love-child's decor. When I told her this, she said, "Well, I don't" and sighed exasperatedly.

At this point, my mood changed from hurt to hopeful that she might actually not care, and then I would get to decorate Ari's room however I wanted. This thought was wonderful, but I wanted more. I wanted to decorate and then have B proclaim me a genius for my taste and shopping skills. Here is where B hit her stride. She redeemed herself for her prior bored attitude by exclaiming convincingly about how great Ari's room looked and how lucky she was to have a wife who cared about interior design.

You see, decor sounds silly but actually is key. How can one be in a good mood, ever, if one's decor is shabby-non-chic or dark and dreary or uncomfortable? One cannot. That is how B was, when I found her. She lived in a basement apartment underneath an unrenovated house. The old lady who lived above her owned the house, had never dusted anything, and had rented the basement, furnished, to B. The location was wonderful, but the furnishings were hideous. First of all, every square centimeter of space had a fragile, filthy bauble on it, so you could not put anything down, except on the floor. This offended me especially, as I am a minimalist and shall be forever more, no matter what the fashion might be!

The floor of this wretched dungeon was covered in dark, disgusting rugs. It was the kind of place where a cloud of dirt billowed forth every time anything moved. This was mostly unnoticeable due to B's chain-smoking, which produced a dust-disguising cloud of smoke. B herself was such a slob that even the landlady (no slouch in terms of slobbishness) complained. I saw the diamond in the rough, though. I knew I could civilize this girl and take her excellent wit home with me and teach it to behave.

But this was about the sensitivity required of B and I in our marriage. Let us return to the question of honesty versus lies. Let us say there is something in my teeth. This, of course, has never been true, but just in case. Here is what I require. I require any person I am romantically involved with (in this case, B) to immediately and quietly tell me that there is something in my teeth. Then she shall offer a mirror or, if she does not have one, tell me where to find one. Then, after I have excused myself to correct the state of affairs and returned, she must pretend that it never happened. She must immediately change the subject to something fascinating enough to make us both forget the whole incident. Here is where I expect some high-quality lying. I do not care if the CIA sends agents, or if they water-board her. I do not care if she is hypnotized or drugged or drunk. She must never reveal that I have had something in my teeth in my lifetime. In fact, if either of us refers to my having left for the lady's room with a mirror, she must have another excuse ready, such as, ". . .when you left to go refill the parking meter." Never mind that there are no parking meters or that we walked.

There are other instances, such as stomach viruses and morning sickness and disgusting colds, that Never Occurred. All of this seems obvious to me, and to B too, which is why she does so well where others have fallen. She can fetch a glass of cold water after my morning sickness and then 2-3 seconds later straight-facedly insist it never happened. Prime marriage material, that.

Since she can handle it, I've upped the ante. She now would insist under duress that I have never had a blemish, blown my nose, had a grey hair, burped, peed, tripped and fallen down, gotten unbecomingly angry, perspired, drunk more than a person should, stepped in a pile of doo, or done anything else unattractive ever. If I ask her opinion of a shirt, say, or my hair, and it looks awful, she knows the proper response is, "that shirt does not do you justice" or "something is wrong with your shampoo." Something like that. I need information, or I wouldn't have asked, but there are ways to communicate without being rude. Basic stuff, this, but oh, so hard to find.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Don't Wake the Baby

On this post July 4th afternoon, I would just like to take a moment to warn you that we parents have the ability to turn ourselves into 65 megaton thermonuclear warheads when our children's sleep is threatened. For once, I do not exaggerate. It is only due to incredible restraint that we do not Kill Your Head Off when you play with your stupid bottle caps, have your inane arguments, and honk your dumber than dumb horns during precious, precious nap time. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

The beach is so funny. I love it, like everyone else does, maybe a bit more than most. I'm not afraid of sharks or jellyfish. I'm afraid of the rip currents. My grandfather would say that was a fear appropriately placed, though he, like all southerners, called it "the under-toe."

When I come to the beach I turn into a bit of a poetic megalomaniac. I suddenly think I am the one the beach is for. Like I alone cannot live without the ocean, like I alone am destined to live on the shore, in a distressed (yet new construction) beach bungalow with a massive deck and infinity pool and a man-servant named James. Sometimes in the midst of these crazy thoughts, I honestly believe it is original to want to live near the ocean, in spite of the prices of shoreline real estate. Or, I don't think that, exactly, but rather that I want it More Than Anyone Else. We all think this when we go to the beach, and I suppose we all think all the other things I think, too.

1) How have I survived so long without the sound of waves, the smell of salty air, blah, blah, blah?

2) Why do I not drink beachy drinks like this all the time?

3) How come I don't have any decent bathing suits? followed quickly by (if you're a woman):

4) Who is the torturing sadist who came up with the whole women's swimwear thing?

I noticed after 3 & 4, when I took a stroll to the nearby marketplace, that none of the beach shops sell women's bathing suits, though they all sell men's. This is because nobody wants to get killed. When I asked, they had the nerve to look as if selling women's swimwear had never occurred to them. Lying bitches.

I did enjoy my little shopping jaunt, which occurred during nap time. (You see why it's so important, people?) I bought two bottles of wine. Then I came back and had parent nap time with B.

Ari's cream towel
We've had one other shopping trip at the beach. The rental didn't have any bath towels, and we'd only brought beach towels. We didn't have enough to double use them, since we've been swimming twice a day. Luckily, Delaware has no sales tax and scads of outlets, so we went to the Ralph Lauren Factory Store where we let Ari choose his own towel. "What color do you want?" I asked him, prepared for pink or lilac. "Cweam!" he said, grabbing like six of the cream ones. "Um, really?" I said, "Do you understand you're a three-year-old?" "Don't you want purple or green or yellow or blue?" asked B. "I. Want. Cweam." he said. "Cweam! I want a cweam towel. Stop askin' me!" What I think he meant was, "Get with it, mommies. I said I wanted cream, why is that so bizarre? People buy cream towels everyday, all over this country. It's a regular cream towel extravanganza, so please get a hold of yourselves and stop acting like I'm some kind of freak. It's embarrassing."
The towel up close. Could I be a product photographer, or what?

So we got him the cream. At first I thought he was being boring, but now we've gotten it back to the beach rental, and I took another look. It is a stunning shade of cream, I must say. Not yellowy or dingy-white at all, not derivative of some other color the way so many creams are, but its own unique shade. That boy has a good eye.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Wine Groove #2

Song: Marquee by Greg Laswell
Wine: Kendall Jackson Reserve Chardonnay 2009

You get that I'm trying to pair wines with songs the way wine critics pair wines with food, right? I thought that was obvious, but my wife tells me I should make it explicit. I must not be the first (or even close) person who's done this, so I'd just assumed people would know what was up. If I had to pair wines with food, everything would be paired with a Twinkie and a side of beef, and it would be no good.

The other thing I want to explicitly reveal is that I listen to the song and drink the wine while I write the post. Since I'm asking my reader to sit, drink, and listen, I do, too, and I can't complain this is a hardship. I didn't intend to conduct any kind of a Writing Experiment, but my wanna-be-English-teacher self tells me this would be useful in a classroom for teaching mood and tone. You can't give children wine, or you would soon be fired, but the song you could do. Many have done this before, but it's interesting don't you think? I use music as an anti-depressant, and I always assumed it works for me because I don't actually need an anti-depressant, but maybe there's more to it. Maybe the connection between music and mood or music and *mood* (literary mood) is more nuanced than we believe.

Tonight's wine is a conservative choice, a common favorite available at many chain restaurants. I wish I were cool enough to say I hate chains and that I never drank anything I didn't discover myself. The reality is you need a standby if you're caught at a chain because your toddler only eats chain food. That's the purpose of this choice, which is good and reasonably priced. It was one of those wines my wife and I were almost ashamed to like as much as we did, given the yuppie American mainstreamness of it.
Kendall Jackson Reserve Chardonnay has defined some genres for me, both of chardonnay and California. The one I "tested" is the 2009, but I've drunk enough to know any year will do. I pair it with Greg Laswell's song Marquee, which I'm sure most of you have heard. The purpose of the Summer Wine Grooves is not to teach anyone new music or new wine, but to remind people in case they might have missed something good amid all the hoopla and non-hoopla of the world we're in. I find that with both music and wine (two of my favorite things) I lose objectivity and have such strong opinions I can't see out of them. But then someone I respect will sometimes remind me to taste or listen again.

Anyway, we're at the beach this week. I was utterly afraid of the three hour drive with Ari, which turned out to be six, but then he was fine. B and I were so traffic stressed we almost imploded, but Ari thought it was a grand adventure.

Still, it's hard traveling with a young child. B and I often go without the basic human necessities of regular liquid or food consumption and excretion because we're both so focused on his. I can never understand how this happens in retrospect. It seems utterly implausible that one normal child can make two adults so non-functioning, but I know the phenomenon is common, even among the experts. My former therapist, who has two kids of her own and specializes in new moms, once told me she had "no idea" what she and her husband were so busy doing with their kids that made them too busy to pee, eat, sleep, or shower. Since she told me that, I feel no shame, which I suppose was the point of her telling me. I've had many excellent shrinks, but none are needed right now!

My biggest problems this week are my hair (in eyes forever no matter what I do, but prettily so, according to wife, therefore I cannot cut it) and the one half of a corkscrew in our beach rental. See my solution in photo above. Oh, and there are only Supremely Tacky glasses here, but B and I embraced the tack and chose the tackiest one for our K.J. consumption (also in photo.)

Happy Fourth.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Love Story, about Socks

I'm going to tell you a story. I'm going to tell the story, and you're going to comment and tell me what you think the theme is. We wanna-be-teacher types believe that to engage an audience, you have to have some interactive part of the program. You read the story, comment about the theme, and I get to pick the winner. The winner gets a prize. The prize is a $1.29 Amazon gift card (because you know I hate Itunes) and a bottle of the wine from Summer Wine Groove #2, which I will post tomorrow. I will send it to the winner's address. If nobody comments, either because nobody is reading or because you are all Chickenshit-Scaredy-Cats, I will reveal what I believe the theme to be in my next post. I know we all remember that a theme is a statement, ideally a complete, single sentence, that is revealed by the events of a story. I make up stories like this, usually fictional, starring moi, for my students to teach theme, and other stuff. They love it. They eat this shit up! I hope you will, too.

This is a story about two women. It may or may not be true. It may be some variation of the truth, or a combination of different truths, like most things are. It is up to you to figure out if truth is important here. I'm going to tell the story in the first person, and it's up to you to figure out if and why that matters, how it impacts the story's truthfulness, either in reality or imagination, and what imaginative truth even is.

At this point I would like to point out that I am blogging in the presence of my son, who is three, by myself, and getting him to play independently. Please hold your applause. More on that (independent play struggles) later. . .

Enough build up. Here's the damn story.

Once upon a time, when I was younger and childless, I was very much in love with this girl. She traveled a lot for her job, and during this particular month, she was working in Paris. We'd recently had a ceremony, though it wasn't legal, either according to the Jews or the state, but to us it was a Big Deal. We were not wealthy, since we were newlyweds, and so I felt very lucky when my boss's wife offered to let me use his frequent flier miles to come and spend time in Paris with her after her work there was done. I took some vacation time and booked a flight. I can't remember if this was our first time in Paris together--it may have been the second. I'm dreadful at remembering these kinds of details, but it doesn't mean that I don't care.

I remember other details--a winter scene in a Starbucks in Paris on one trip--it was snowing; my head was in her lap; I think I slept. The Parisians were too busy being Parisian to notice the love exploding off of us, igniting everything in flames. "Oh, what eez zat?" they wondered in their Parisian accents, "A fire? How inconvenient! Zees ugleee, fat Americans!" Anyway.

The morning of my flight to see my new wife, I took a lot of time getting dressed. I wanted to be comfortable and adorable and just the way she remembered me. I'd missed her unbearably. When I got to the airport, the flight was delayed three times, then canceled. I couldn't get onto another one until the next day because of frequent flier mile restrictions. I talked to my wife several times, and was frustrated to have lost the day, with her, in Paris, but mostly, to not have her in my presence for another Grueling Eternity.

Somehow, I remained in good spirits because of my socks. I still haven't decided if it was the socks or if they were just the thing I latched onto to retain my optimism, but I recall telling my wife that it was the socks. They were really soft, and it felt like I had pillows around my feet. They made me easy-going, and I was the favorite among the airline staff. (This wasn't hard, since everyone else was shrieking at them.) They offered a hotel, even though I lived a short metro ride away. They grinned at me. They flirted. They tried to override restrictions for me, or at least they said they did. It was not so bad.

Eventually I got to Paris, and my wife and I had a fantastic time. There was some drama with her French ex-girlfriend, but there was also a really big shower, unheard of in Paris, but then again that may have been the other trip. Whatever the case, I can still call up how the socks felt, and I can recreate how they allowed me to be patient, funny, and content in the face of Enormous Disappointment And Longing. I know what you're thinking. You think, "Well, what other choice did you have?" I could have been like every other person there, who was throwing An Absolute Fit.

I still have the socks. They've held up well, since I have like 57093475209 pairs of socks, and I only wear them on really important days, or when I'm indulging myself. Of course they don't make them anymore, but no matter. They're a part of my sense-memory. They aren't just lucky socks. They're socks which create an aspect of myself. I was in my early 30s when this happened, and I've since learned the brain doesn't fully mature until about 35. Now I see the socks as what happened to be there when my mind coalesced. And I see my contentment at the flight cancellation as one of the acts of everyday heroism regular people get to feel good about until they are truly challenged. It was practice, for an actual bad day.

So, there is the story. Themes?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Wine Groove #1

1) Download song.
2) Procure bottle. (All are less than $20; theme is refreshing whites.)
3) Chill bottle (in freezer, if necessary, but then you MUST NOT FORGET bottle is in freezer.)
4) Put the baby(ies) to bed.
5) Pour glass.
6) Sit down.
7) Play song on repeat.
8) Drink wine.
9) REMAIN SEATED for the entire consumption of the glass of wine. You can do it. Try to sip slowly.
10) Thank me.

If you are the kind of person who does not believe that playing a good song on repeat for 15 minutes is fun, go read some other blog!

Today's wine is the Aresti Sauvignon Blanc 2009, out of Chile. I generally love Chilean whites, but I thank my friend Cindy for her reminder about the excellence of this variety. Just when I was getting bored with torrontes and albarinos (We've drunk little else for the past several summers.), Cindy had dinner with my wife and gave this excellent tip: "Drink more sauvignon blanc." I'm not sure if those were her exact words. She probably had a more clever delivery, but I got the message.

Most good sauvys come from New Zealand, I'm told, and I've loved the few I've tried. But for ten dollars, I like the Aresti, which is almost as good, though getting hard to find. If you can't get the 2009, I'd have faith in the 2010 as well. The Aresti is less floral and quieter than the New Zealand stuff, but has a crispness that I sometimes prefer to the full mouth of the New Zealand ones. At the end of a day, I want a wine that isn't a Myriad of Contradiction. But now I sound like I know what I'm talking about, which couldn't be further from the truth, so let's move on to the song.

We are listening to "Boogie Oogie Oogie" by A Taste of Honey. Make sure you get the single version. In addition to the classic funk bass line, I chose this song because it contains an Truly Important Message. You think I'm kidding, don't you? But I'm not.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The New Civil War

It has taken me decades to like country music. Used to be, I would never admit I was from the South. In the long-standing teenage tradition, I was embarrassed. I removed myself from all things southern. I cultivated a neutral accent. I claimed to like only Erasure and The Cure. I went to school in the east and pretended to be appalled by Crisco.

Now things are a little more complex. I love Sugarland and Rascal Flatts and can finally admit this openly. I adore Crisco and often use it as a dipping sauce. (Kidding.) I miss the doors held open for me, the tissues offered when I sneeze, and so on. I miss being able to freely admit to the occasional desire to shoot someone and not have a scad of white liberals handcuff me for it. These little things. On the other hand, I'm not sure I understand southern queers. I've noticed among my Facebook friends, the ones living in the south seem to expect a lot less from their politicians. They (the southern queers) all seem to think Obama loves gay people. From here, it seems like he pretty much hates us. It's a complex topic, and I'm certainly not an expert. I just wanted to comment on how the issue divides along the Mason-Dixon line.

B tells me that when I'm angry, I have a drawl. She takes cover when she says this, because she knows better than to provoke me and then stick around.

We've been fighting lately, probably because she's been traveling so much. In the middle of one fight, I asked her to do something. In the long-standing tradition of fights, it seemed crucial at the time, but I no longer have any idea what it was. She said that she couldn't do it. "YEW CAIN'T OR YEW WON'T?" I shrieked, looking for something to throw. I would never actually throw anything. I've been in too much therapy. Besides, I couldn't have hit her; she was in Kansas City. But nobody can stop me from looking! Still, she resisted doing the thing. Finally, I said, "Well, sum people maht lahk tu du it! Ah could walk out on 355 and take off mah top, and ah'm shur ah'd have sevrul voluntee-urs." Again, I would never actually do a strip tease on the side of a highway, but I'm an expert at proving my point by threatening to do Things I Would Never Do. This is just one example of ways in which I am a Myriad of Contradiction (as infuriating as I am desirable), an enigma wrapped inside a mystery, and so on and so forth. It is exhausting, truly, to be as complex and nuanced as I am. I hope that B appreciates it!

Ari's potty-training prize--he could have
chosen anything, but, in typical Ari-fashion,
he picked this $4.99 Magic Mic.
B and I, through our time together, have been engaged in a war. It is a Stubbornness Competition. This was going swimmingly for years, because I was winning. Then Ari was born. He was colicky. Then he was Spirited. Now, he is Strong Willed. You cannot bend him. It doesn't work. He potty trained himself. Our attempts were met with mocking examples of his complete control over his bodily functions and his expressions of unwillingness to put things anywhere other than where HE deemed appropriate. I had given up so utterly and been so thoroughly schooled that I was happily envisioning his wearing a diaper to college. Once Ari realized I felt this way, he finally started pooping in the potty. And just like when he first peed on the potty in late March, he hasn't had an accident since.

Then there is the issue of the big boy bed, where I expected him to cry endless torrents and never sleep again. So, naturally, he was so excited about it that he forces me to put him to bed at 6:15 (Ack!) and smiles and giggles anytime he sees it.

Expressing his true feelings about his big boy bed
Ari is such a mastermind at being a Myriad of Contradiction that I'm sure he's genetically related to both B and me. I think that the sperm donor and the IUIs were just subterfuge for the immaculate conception that is my son, that somehow B got me pregnant. I know it's not possible, but then where did he get her mile-long eyelashes? And how does he know to mumble "no" and pout so passionately at every social nicety before 11:00 am? And how oh how oh how did he get so stubborn?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mrs. Robinson (sort of)

This may come as some surprise, but yesterday I exercised. I'd weighed myself and been encouraged by the number I saw. This made me think that perhaps I was not so out of shape (I shan't share the number.) and should keep it that way. I think of my son and how old I already am (I shan't share that number, either.) and how I want to see him get married, or not, or have whatever commitment type thing with some person someday. Evidently, to live a long time, you're supposed to exercise. That is what they say.

So, I went swimming and did some laps. I only did six, but I don't use the wall or the floor. It's much harder that way, especially the turns. After, I felt fine. If all exercise were swimming, my body and I would have a deal. But I can't do indoor pools, which presents a problem of venue. I need the sun, the outdoors, some people to look at for distraction, some decent summer heat, and someone to chit chat with.

Yesterday, I chatted with the lifeguard. Ari has a crush on him, so he knows us. I think the lifeguard might have a crush on me. Not like anything sexual--I'm not a delusional lunatic. He's a hot, blond, international boy of 22. I'm a lesbian mom who comes to the pool with 174 objects and drops them all over the place like a spaz. I spend my pool time nagging my three-year-old about sunscreen and forcing fluids down him like some sun-exposure paranoiac. Then I walk him back and forth to the bathroom talking about excretion. The moments of my appeal have got to be pretty fleeting. But something's going on. The lifeguard (He told me his name, but I can't pronounce it.) asks me questions, and he offers me goggles, and he smiles at me as if we're sharing a secret. Maybe it's cultural. Anyway, it's kind of cool. I feel like Mrs. Robinson.

Only I'm not. I have this weird shyness, even though I'm not really that shy, where I freak out and panic when someone offers me something, like goggles. When he asked if I would like some, I first thought, "Yuck! Why would I want to wear some stranger's goggles?" Plus, I'd almost poked my eye out some days before. (I shan't reveal if this had anything to do with The Pot Rack Incident.) So, I was nervous about messing with my eyes, even just to put on goggles. Then I felt guilty. After all, he was only trying to be nice. So, I sputtered around and shook my head and made some utterly absurd excuse about wanting to keep my head out of the water anyway. Then I had to continue the charade for the rest of my swim and day at the pool, which was no fun in this heat, let me tell you.

I don't know why I do that. Probably, if I were lost in the desert and someone came and offered me a ride back to civilization, I would turn it down for some equally ridiculous reason. "Oh, no, thank you," I would say. "I'm just out for a lovely stroll." I don't like it when people guess that I don't have all my shit together, and I don't like being singled out for that kind of attention. Except when I do. I love it when Barbara rescues me from a bug or from the thunder, for instance. She does this other sweet thing when I'm going somewhere important. She prints directions for me in case of GPS fail. Then she works it into the conversation to explain the directions to me because she knows I'm hopeless. I can accept this kind of rescuing from her, because I really, really like her. But that lifeguard needs to back off.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Theories of Inadequacy

We shan't discuss the pot rack. I've told my nearest and dearest (all two of them) the details of my humiliation, and they know better than to spill. So, no matter what happens, no matter how you beg, the pot rack shan't be discussed. Here, however, is a photograph for those of you who who are dying to know about The Pot Rack Incident. Interpret it as you wish.

The other day I was reading Other Blogs. I adore blogs, and there are several I like quite a bit better than mine. I'm no visual architect, for instance, and I keep putting pictures up because my grad school water-boarded me into using "multiple methods of presentation." But, I'm limited in terms of what I can do with these pictures because I have no visual imagination.

I know a lot of words, but never enough, and I can never find the ones I want at the right time and am forever using cruddy substitutes. I'm self-indulgent about the words I love. Sometimes I spend whole posts trying to come up with excuses to use them ("shan't," for instance.) In this manner, I plod on dully. I speak only one language. I can't draw. I have no musical talent whatsoever. I used to think I was pretty mechanical, but that has no use in blogging, and in fact has been proven false by the incident we shan't discuss. I have only one fine quality, which is enthusiasm, and that doesn't make up for as much as you'd think. Further, it is (and has eternally been) out of fashion.

Back to the beginning: I was reading Other Blogs, hoping to learn something. I learned that people are geniuses, all except me. I'm still not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it is nice to know that intelligence in humans is possible. One does not always have clear proof of that. On the other hand, I feel so wildly unsuccessful compared to other bloggers that I'm discouraged.

I become very enthusiastic about the blogs I like. I develop crushes on wordsmiths, and on people who spell difficult words correctly. My wife is an excellent speller; I couldn't have married her otherwise. I, of course, can barely spell cat. I comfort myself that at least I know when I spell something wrong and that spelling is not actually of any use. Still, I like good spellers, and I wish I were a good speller. I've spent a lot of time trying to be a better speller. (Fail.) It's my thing--what can I say? There's no reason for it, but it cannot be denied!

Having no job is a cesspool for neurosis. The other night I couldn't sleep because Ari's big boy bed was being delivered the following morning. I kept worrying that he would freak out and keep getting out of bed and screaming or something. You know how it is; you hear stories. Ari's friend Eden (named changed to protect the innocent) apparently freaked out for weeks, banging on the door to get out, crying, and curling her little fingers under the door. Eden is a perfectly civilized child under most circumstances. Every time I see her, she greets me with a polite kiss on the check and then goes back to "reading" her books or examining her puzzles. However, she lost her shit about her big girl bed.

Ari, sleeping happily, in his big boy bed
I'd heard this kind of thing before. So I instituted my excellent insomniac coping strategy to be fully energized for Ari's impending all-night-long crisis! He's the three-year-old, but I am the freak who can't adjust to changes.

I swear that I'm a normal person in real life, when I don't have too much time on my hands. There was a poem I once liked, by Joy Harjo, called "Grace." One of the lines is "Grace is a woman with time on her hands." I used to love that. It made me think of air so humid it's syrupy and women chatting (in the South, of course) over clotheslines, not really having anything to fold. Now I say, "Bull!"

I tried to get Ari early from school some days, to take him to the park and places. He seemed a little miffed. He was happy to see me and to go to the park, but when we got there, he would say, "Mommy, there's nobody here to play with! Where are the friends?" And he was right. We don't know any of the stay at home parent crowd, and it's not much of a crowd. So, I stopped doing that. It only threw him off. I enrolled him in some classes (swimming, soccer), but they haven't started yet. Hopefully, that will go better because there will be other kids.

I've thought of exercising, but I hate exercise. The only time I've successfully exercised was when I was coming out in college, and I had lots of unrequited lust. Now that I'm all happy and shit, I can't motivate. I spent an entire year once polling people about what motivates them to exercise, and I didn't get any good answers. People would say they enjoyed running however many miles and felt good afterwards. Give me a break. Either I'm missing some essential organ that makes people love to suffer, or those bitches all lied. I quickly lost interest in finding out which it was.

I find, on days like this, that the 15 minutes I spend at school when I pick Ari up really pay off. When I walk in, throngs of three-year-olds throw themselves at me with hugs and kisses. Ari waits his turn and goes last, because he wants me to carry him for the rest of the day. It is very hard to feel anything but good when this happens, no matter that I can't spell.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Real Boys Wear Pink

Have I mentioned that Ari wears a tutu? Or, he did, before. Then he ripped a hole in it, and I had to go 268 different places to find someone who would fix it. The stitching is very delicate, you see, and many tailoring professionals were frightened. This is the only time in my life I wanted to live in New York. I hate New York. (I know this admission will make me extremely unpopular.) However, I also realize that in New York they will fix ANYTHING.  You can go anywhere in New York--just pick a random building and walk in--and somebody in there will agree to turn your broken, moldy, flea-infested whatever to "good as new" for five dollars. If you turn that offer down, they may even do it for free because nobody in New York ever throws anything away, nor can any of them bear to see anybody else throw anything away, which is part of why I hate it. Too much clutter. Plus, I'm from the South. We're obligated to believe New Yorkers are rude, though in fact, I find them very polite, a lot like southerners, really. The people are sweet, but I hate the place. It's too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer (and has an alarming shortage of both central a/c and swimming pools), smells of urine, has too many insects, and is expensive.

Nonetheless, I said to Barbara the other day, "We may have to move to New York." She was thrilled, of course, being from Brooklyn. Why did I say this inane thing? Because in New York no one cares if a three year old boy wears a tutu, like Ari used to. He insisted on wearing it to school every day. Being queer, what could I say? "No, darling, only your mothers are allowed to do socially-variant things." I was proud of him. But also, secretly, I was scared.

Ari (of course) lost interest in his tutu at the precise moment I got it back from being repaired, but he still wears them at school. (They have school tutus, believe it or not.) He also sometimes insists he's a girl, a kitty cat, a big boy, a baby, his own baby sister (very meta for a three year old, no?), or a kao-kau. (I do not know what this last thing is, so I just agree stupidly and change the subject.) The other day, he told me, "Mommy, Lulu says I'm not a girl!" He looked unhappy about this. I, momentarily struck stupid, said, "Well, you're not." Mommy fail #57904502984. Barbara saved the day, whisking into his room, and declaring, "Well, you tell Lulu that she doesn't decide what you are. You do." This was one of those times I was grateful there are two of us. Usually somebody can keep her head.

I mentioned Ari's girlie predilections to the pediatrician, and said, "Of course we don't care if he's gay." In fact, I'd always assumed he would be. I hope so. Gay is cool. He will shop with me. He will take frequent showers, even as an adolescent. He will be less likely to get some girl pregnant. He will not (probably) date anyone who thinks it's weird that he has two moms. But let's face it: wanting to wear a tutu has nothing to do with being gay.
The tutu. . .
. . .two ways
Anyway, the pediatrician totally took my mind off my own questions by telling me how his son wore a tutu (a blue one that his wife made for the kid) when he was three, too.  The pediatrician's son has brittle bone disease so also wore a full body cast, and one day was playing baseball (modified for the cast, of course) around the coffee table when he fell and gave himself a concussion. Evidently, the ER docs loved the tutu; ignored the body cast; and were confused about the modified, coffee-table baseball, but overall weren't so shocked by any of it. After this story, I quickly saw that gender variance of any degree is such a minuscule concern I needed to shut up. So, I did. Since then, I've wished I had a fairy who would make Ari a tutu that was goth and black and sort of Robert Smith looking. I envision Ari-teenager as a beautiful androgynous long-haired fairy type, both his tutu and his hair blowing in the wind. Sort of Maxfield Parrish with a twist. Then I realize A does not have the coloring for a black tutu. Neither does Robert Smith, but he can afford better make up and colorists than Ari.

The point is, whenever I start to feel positively about Ari having some gender variance, part of me is afraid for his well being. I'm afraid, not for his safety, but for his essence. I want to protect him and the exponentially expanding number of potential selves he will choose from. I want him to be able to choose from them all and to change his mind whenever he wants to. But that's not how gender works in our dumb world. What I (and most three-year-olds) see as something fun to play with and try on, others see as unbending. Whenever I think about this, I get so angry I can barely breathe. What kind of a society is this, where the masses decide so arbitrarily, so seriously what people should wear and how they should behave? When I look at my own life and the lives of my friends, I view the ways we've adjusted as a series of compromises. Sure, I can wear boy's clothes and have short hair and like football and marry a woman and still be female, but only just. Example one: people assume that B carried our child because I dress like a boy. What kind of sense does that make?

There are only four or five boys in Ari's class of 22, and already they segregate themselves. Really? Yes. Ari is the only boy I ever see playing in the "kitchen." He is the only boy I see wearing purple, yellow, or pink. The other day he told me, "Mommy, boys don't wear lellow!" (He can't pronounce "yellow.") He wanted to wear blue that day, even though I know his favorite colors are red and purple and pink. I watch him trying to figure out how to fit, and I wish he didn't have to.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why I Hate iTunes

This past weekend, I plugged my iPhone into my laptop, which I hate to do because I love my iPhone, but every time I plug it into a computer something goes horrendously wrong. I am unsure why I need to "sync" anyway, since it is a phone and therefore always on line. Can't it just like, go get the stuff it needs? I have my Google Calendar, and it updates through the web. Same with my email, obviously, and my, and my weather and so on. I use Picassa for photos, and I fail to see why only iTunes, the Dinosaur Behemoth, must physically sync with a cable. I just don't get it. Isn't Apple supposed to be all forward-thinking and ahead of its time? Why doesn't it seem to get that plugging a cable into a device for something other than charging is an extra step?

I spent most of Sunday growling and huffing and kicking things while the latest iteration of iTunes (I swear there is a new, enormous update every time I open the sodding thing.) re-downloaded every song I own for no apparent reason. There was, as usual, no stopping it, and when it was finished, several hours later, I had, as usual, lost some songs. Also, I had gained some songs I didn't want, and I am so OCD that this bothers me. Meaning, I now need to spend some time deleting the crap it decided to "gift" me, which is inevitably by some band I have heard of only long enough to decide that I hate them. Luckily, this time, I did not have dupes of every item in my library to delete, but that, too, has happened before.

Every so often, I write to iTunes tech support kvetching, and they are very nice. They make suggestions and offer free stuff, but I just ignore them. The point of writing to them, for me, is the release of my utter and absolute fury. There isn't much that is more important to me than my groove, and I do not like having my music messed with.

I have the occasional suspicion that I may be missing something, that iTunes' architecture is not actually so terrible, that I just don't understand it. Maybe, accidentally, some setting somewhere is set to "TOXIC POISON INTENTIONAL SERIOUS MALFUNCTION EVERY SEVENTEEN SECONDS." If so, then I need help. Preferably in the form of a humble yet knowledgeable (oh, and better make her hot, or I won't pay any attention) free personal iTunes/music advisor. This person, if you know her, should contact me so that we can arrange my free instruction in how not to fuck up my groove. In case I haven't mentioned it, I am unemployed for at least the summer, so this could count towards volunteer hours, like with helping the unemployed reeducate or something. Perhaps tax-deductible? Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Laundry Wars

My wife and I are pretty smart (which I know I am always reminding you), but for some reason, we both believe the other can never, ever comprehend The Laundry. We're both so territorial about our clothes that neither of us likes the other to start a load. When she is home, B does it. I don't like this because, while she gets stains out and never ruins anybody's clothing, she continually leaves the room where we are socializing to deal with it. Sometimes this even occurs during cocktail hour! When I ask to help, in an effort to keep the disruption shorter, I'm told to "just play with Ari." Then she tells me that I've got to be kidding because there is no way I could possibly do anything but destroy the already precarious Laundry Situation. (This second part she tells me silently, with her eyes, which is lucky for her, I tell you, otherwise cocktail hour might become cocktail face!)

When B is not home, I avoid almost all of her clothes.  I'm scared, you see, because she sometimes has Unwritten Instructions about certain items, and I cannot remember which ones they are (the instructions or the items.)  I feel that she over-complicates The Laundry Process.

This thing holds the clean laundry we never fold. Isn't it beautiful?
To be honest, we both do. We used to have one hamper for darks, one for lights, and one for Ari's clothes.  I decided that Ari should be with the rest of us, since we haven't done his laundry separately for years.  Now we have one hamper for darks, one for lights, and one for whites.  I quickly noticed that the darks and whites are never full.  Because of this, I instituted a new sorting system which is too complex to explain to anyone.  I haven't even tried to tell B. Oh, sure, I've told her the basic gist, but I haven't shared the intricacies. In a marriage, you've got to leave something to the imagination.

So, I don't explain. I just go behind her and re-sort. Basically, if the item is light, but could conceivably go in the darks (because it's old and no one cares if it gets dingy), then I put it in the darks. The same is true for in-betweens. However, this is not true if there is something new in the darks that might bleed. Basically, the point of this is to try to get a full load of darks more frequently. Of course, even when I have a full load, I can't run it because most darks belong to B (She is a black-wearer, while A and I love pastels.), and I am afraid of ruining something by not knowing the Unwritten Instructions. Just last Thursday, I did a load of seemingly innocuous darks, which contained only one tank top of B's. (I was feeling too fragile to attempt more than one.) Cotton, from the Gap. Easy, right? Just to be safe, I hung it to dry. Sometimes B likes things to air dry even though they are supposed to be safe for the dryer. She came home from her mediation and declared it would have to be rewashed because she does not like "how it gets when it air dries." Sigh.

The hampers.  Wet washcloths dangle over the edge, so they do not make mildew.  This is crucial.
B no longer even tells me the Unwritten Instructions, which I'm fine with, since I can't keep track of them and they kind of piss me off, anyway. I don't tell her about my new sorting rationale because I barely understand it. Sometimes, I get so confused about what's dark and what's light and what counts as completely white (You'd think that would be easy, but there are white socks with grey heels and toes that can be bleached!) that I don't know what to think.

There is a lesson in this somewhere, but it feels like a pointless pain. Maybe our struggles to please each other re: laundry are a replacement for the flowers we can rarely give. (The cat eats them and pukes. If we keep them shut in the bathroom, Ari lets the cat in. If Ari sees them, he insists on giving them away to his teachers, which is only sweet the first six times. And so on. . .) Maybe I do B's laundry when I'll probably screw it up because it engages me with her while she's traveling, so I miss her less. Maybe my need to romanticize even laundry means I need a job. Both of us have unreasonable Laundry Expectations. They're a metaphor for our unreasonable and complicated expectations in general, our vast differences but our similar needs to feel like Myriads of Contradiction. Every attempt to wash each other's clothing becomes a grand gesture, and I can't help but think we must really love each other to even try.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Playground Fantasies

1) Free mimosas before noon

2) Free champagne after that

3) I am in charge.

4) Shade

5) That woman who is the probable mother of the savage who will not stop torturing my child has her head squashed suddenly by a falling anvil, as in Road Runner.

6) Alternatively: I walk towards her, ask her, "Is that your son?"  She nods.  I say, "You'd better watch out" in menacing tone.  She looks satisfactorily terrified.  I am badass.  She then says, "What did he do?" with quavering voice.  I tell her all about his jumping so hard on the shaky bridge while Ari was walking across  that it made him cry.  I tell her that a child her son's age (5?) should not delight in the misery of barely 3 year olds.  "It is not natural, " I say.  "Beware the ides of March," I say.  I look sinister.  She shivers and begins to cry a little.  Then she starts to beg me to leave her alone. All the other families and I cower around her, like we are the witches in Macbeth and she is the kettle, with all the newts and other dreck in it.  We start to moan like zombies.  Steam rises up from the ground.  We all look deeply into her eyes, as if into the witches' brew.  She is so scared she wets herself, and then we all laugh and disappear.

The reality was more like this:  I asked, "Is that your son?"  She said that he wasn't, but she knows him, and she is sorry for his behavior.  What the hell am I supposed to do with that?  Where do I put my maternal rage?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Going Down

A couple of weeks ago, at the school where I was doing my student teaching, I walked into the copy room and somebody from my cohort said, “Hi, Gorgeous!”  I’m pretty sure she was talking to Shardae, who came in with me, though I guess we could have been collectively gorgeous.  For some reason I still don’t understand, I was thrilled anyway, like she'd been talking to me.  It has something to do with the cohort deal, the closeness and the comfortableness and the sort of support where you feel all the successes as if they were your own.  We joke about building our own school.  We share books.  We could be socially clumsy with each other and would be immediately forgiven, but we never are.  Cedric (the only male in our cohort) is the first straight man ever to have told me that though he thinks I look nice in a suit and lipstick, he prefers me in jeans and a t-shirt.

Back to the copy room comment:  I’ve been fretting lately about losing my looks.  I love that expression and will take any opportunity to use it.  It’s so Southern and dramatic, and it satisfies me somewhere deep down.  I like to say "I'm losing my looks" while placing the back of my hand to my forehead and leaning backwards unsteadily, as if on the verge of collapse.  I was raised in the South, and I still enjoy certain elements.  You may have noticed my need to exaggerate.  That is from the South.  There is something in the air there--maybe it's the heat--that grows children who exaggerate and then are surprised when people take them literally.  I am one of those.  I also try to drink mint juleps, but I can’t because I hate them.  However, I feel strongly that I would look good holding one, with my pinkie sticking out and the mint leaf poised artfully, half wilting, in the heat.  Perhaps the mint julep is a prop that could make up for losing my looks.

While we are on the topic of dramatic poses, I shall reveal that I enjoy toddler-hood for the high drama.  I sometimes laugh when my son hurls himself on the floor and wails and pounds his little fists because he can’t have a lollipop before dinner, though of course I feel his pain.  I am proud of his dramatic prowess, and it’s hilarious.  As a parent, if you can’t enjoy some aspect of this shit, you are going to go down.

Ari's dramatic baby-hood

The phrase “going down” is another good one, one that reminds me of a story my mother-in-law told me about having a newborn who wouldn’t sleep in a 16th floor apartment building in Brooklyn.  She used to look out the window with the baby in her arms at 3:00 am and think, “If this keeps up, we’re both going down.”  Luckily, she didn’t jump out the window because the newborn was my wife.  But I appreciate her sentiment.  High drama is the saving grace of parenthood.

I never see any of my cohort anymore.  I didn’t know this when I started grad school, but the cohort model is some kind of psychological trick.  They put a small group of people together all the time, and the result is supposed to be a supportive atmosphere, intense bonding, and increased learning.  They do it a lot with immersion programs like mine, where you complete large amounts in a short time.  Evidently, it works.  I miss my homies.  I feel a kind of chronic, low-level incompleteness. 
Ari, just because

I’m listening to this trilogy by Philip Pullman in the car.  The first one was called The Golden Compass.  I forget the other two titles.  Most people have probably heard of them.  They are hot shit in the middle school English classroom.  Anyway, they’re fantasy young adult books, and the people in the books have daemons, which are animals who contain half of their souls.  The daemons cannot go more than like 20 feet away, or the people they are a part of freak the hell out.  They get all bleak and frantically depressive, and they must have their daemons back, or they eventually go catatonic and die.  I think this part of the books is neat.  It reminds me of Ari, and how much I miss his soft, heavy body when I’m away from him, or when he’s just sick of being cuddled.  It reminds me of my cohort, and how we were forced to bond and then cruelly torn asunder.  It is very dramatic.

I also like the books because they are the first truly radical things I’ve read in a long time.  They include a pair of gay angels who are banding together with other “good guys” to try to kill God.  Cool, right?  They are pissed (the good guys) that God has made man do all this dumb stuff and fight all these wars and generally submit to His will.  Oh, and in the books, God is a big liar.  Such drama!  Such sacrilege!  I love it.

I enjoy drama that is low key, that seems almost as if it might not be dramatic.  One example of this is a story I was told by one of my cashiers in my former life as a retail manager.  The cashier is named Alain, and I guess because he was gay (and very dramatic) we'd grown close.  He was Haitian, and he told me he'd seen Sade in concert in Haiti.  The concert was outdoors, and she performed in full daylight.  It was over 100 degrees.  According to Alain, Sade sang for more than two hours without breaking a sweat.  I've wanted to see her ever since I heard this story, because it makes it seem like Sade becomes her music as she performs it in some essential way.  She gets all cool and mellow, no matter how hot it is.  Of course, it has occurred that Alain had to be lying, and I'm grateful.

In my fantasy Sade concert (based loosely on Alain's story), I lie all over the place.  Because Alain said the concert was outdoors, I place it on the beach.  I place it at sunset, sort of Carly Simon/Martha's Vineyard.  I put the attendance around four.  Me and Barbara, barefoot, dancing.  Ari and his excellent babysitter off playing in the sand.  I can see them if I want to, but I don't because I'm not worried.  There is champagne in a flute B and I are sharing, and it is ice cold and stays that way.  We are well rested and would rather be dancing than sleeping.  I can hear Ari giggling in the distance every few minutes.  And of course, Sade doesn't sweat.

Happiness is making fantasies and then seeing huge chunks of them are real.  We have each other, a refrigerator, some decent prosecco, and some Ipod speakers.  We have a nice balcony.  We laugh a lot.  We have two good sitters, and Ari loves other people.  The missing parts aren't important.  Because if you can't believe that, then you are going down.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Like Getting a Band-aid out of a Blanket

Froggy, next to can of soda to show actual size
Today my son (Ari, in case you forgot his name) dropped Froggy in the toilet.  I know, I know.  You are already riveted.  You are wondering frantically, "Who is Froggy, and how did this happen??!?"  I am certain that you've heard nothing all week that rivals the suspense and fascinatingness of this event.  So, Froggy is this cute little dude, sort of a found object.  We had Ari's third birthday at the park, a park we don't usually go to.  At some point, Ari found Froggy on the floor near a trash can.  Some other child had lost him, and probably drooled on him.  He was all dirty.  Gross, right?  I thought so.  But Ari insisted on bringing Froggy home, and I put him in the laundry, and he came out much cleaner.

Froggy's moved in with us.  Ari loves him more than any other stuffed animal.  Once, Ari lost Froggy for a time (perhaps three days), and every morning when he woke up his first words were, "Froggy? Did you find Froggy?"  Then Froggy appeared, to our great relief, on the living room floor.  It was a scene out of a romance novel.  Ari saw Froggy on the floor, galloped across and scooped him up, held Froggy close to his face crooning softly, "Froggy!  Froggy!"

As usual, this has very little to do with the rest of my post, except that dropping Froggy into the toilet was distressing for Ari, and the only other thing that has been as distressing as this was the Band-aid in the blanket incident which happened a few days ago.  Here I know you are on the edge of your seat.  Ari is obsessed with several things.  There is a little girl named Leila, who wears sun dresses like a seven year old and other normal adult-like clothes.  There is Froggy.  There is his tutu.  Lastly, there are Band-aids.

The other day I was foolish.  As a parent, I am only human.  I try desperately to think ahead to every possible catastrophe, and I am smart.  Almost never do I allow unpleasantness to touch my darling child.  However, I failed the other day.  I allowed my son to wear a Band-aid to bed.  I thought, "What could be the harm?"  I thought, "He is three, surely he will not attempt to pull it off and eat it.  He hardly ever eats anything that doesn't have sugar in it."  I thought, "Oh, I want to let him sleep with the Band-aid!  It will make him so happy!!"  Foolishness!  He did not choke to death while attempting to eat the Band-aid.  No, something far worse happened.  The Band-aid got stuck to his blanket.  
Blanket with Band-aid

For days I have been trying to pick it off.  I finished grad school last week and am currently unemployed, so I have a lot of time.  But no amount of picking did anything.  Finally it occurred to me that I needed to use these fine tipped scissors we have, so I went looking for them.  B, who is in New York for the entire month of May (Have you ever heard of anything so awful?), evidently took them with her.  So I had to wait until she got home for the weekend.  (Okay, so she comes home weekends, but I am still suffering here without her.)
The scissors

This evening I had my moment, and I was alone with the blanket and the scissors.  I had envisioned the scissors neatly removing the Band-aid from the blanket a thousand times.  To have them and the blanket and good lighting was almost more happiness than my OCD self could take.  Then I started cutting.  What a disaster!  After fifteen minutes, I had made no progress.  The nap of the blanket was too short to cut, and the threads were too many, and the f-ing Band-aid was not coming off!  I struggled and suffered and almost wept.  I cried to B (who knew to come and support me, but not too closely because she would have blocked my light), "Help!  Help!"  Eventually, I muttered to her, "I can't sit here and keep trying to cut this Band-aid out of this blanket.  I don't even know if I am alive anymore!"  I admitted defeat, and I sat with my head in my hands, considering buying a new blanket.  (They're only $14.99 at Target.)  But I am unemployed, and besides that, the blanket is perfectly good.  I considered--and this was really hard--allowing the Band-aid to remain on the blanket.  What would Ari think?  Would he be okay with that?  Would I?  Of course not.

I got back to it, and I eventually succeeded.  I ate lots of candy, and that helped.  But mainly what helped was accepting that I could not rest until I got it out.  Whenever writers have characters who "can not rest" until something is accomplished, I know exactly what they mean.  Not literally, of course, because I slept fine for days with the Band-aid stuck to the blanket, but I am with the idea in spirit.  Is this OCD?  Is this why Ari doesn't like art?  Because it's messy, and because OCD is genetic?  Will he notice the Band-aid is gone?  Yes.  Will he think his mommy is crazy?  No.  What is normal, and what is not?  And after my fight with the Band-aid, am I even alive anymore?
The Carnage: bits of Band-aid, candy wrappers, scissors

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spirituality for Atheists

Like any decent parent, I have PTSD.  I am Jewish, not in the sense that I believe in God or anything (Let's not get carried away.), but in the sense that I have a unique cultural blend of rational thinking and neurosis.  I believe that this makes me superior.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  If I didn't think Jewish moms were awesome, then I wouldn't be one.  Right?  I hope that every parent believes that his or her parenting is superior.  That is as it should be.

Back to my PTSD: mostly, mine stems around Ari's asthma.  There were the usual stresses about sleeping and waking, talking and walking, listening and rebelling, eating and pooping.  But the asthma SUCKS.  Ari's first bout of RSV was in July, 2008.  He was four months old.  He was hospitalized for days, mostly as a precaution, but either nobody told me that, or I was too distressed to hear it.  What followed basically involved my weeping in some doctor's lap, him running out of the room for a psych consult (mild exaggeration), and all three of us (that is, the two mommies and the cat) freaking out every time the baby coughed Forevermore.

Ari recently had what was probably RSV again, and he left a new trail of contagion.  Barbara and her boss and I had bronchitis and pneumonia and sinus infections which lasted weeks while Ari was well in about five days.  Anyway, we are all always sick, though it seems (Please, Jesus!) to be better this year.

To keep our selves from dying of stress, B and I have developed quasi-humorous rituals.  We kneel at the foot of our bed and pray.  We bow down before Allah and meditate to become one with the Buddha.  We make deals and promises and melodramatic proclamations to the Norse gods and the Egyptian mummies.  Whatever.  We don't want to miss anyone.  Just in case.  It is a lot of worship and prayer for a house full of atheists.  We giggle at our contortions, but we feel okay about the giggling because no well-meaning deity could fault us for giggling while doing our best to honor him or her.  Right?

I feel we are a study in what happens to PTSD victims/survivors who have no faith.  We waffle in our faithlessness because honestly, what sane parents put their beliefs in front of their children?  I would become a Republican evangelical in a heartbeat if I thought it would keep Ari healthier.  Who's with me?
Laundry pile, Cat, and B

On a good night, it goes like this:  We hear a cough over the baby monitor, and we discuss whether to go and give him a treatment like two rational, atheist mommies, and then one of us, needing some tension relief, starts to pretend pray.  The other one checks on him, and he's breathing slowly, sleeping soundly, what asthma parents call "moving plenty of air."  She comes back to find the other still prostrate in devotion and announces, "he's fine."  Our eyes meet over the heap of unfolded laundry, and the standing one pulls the other one up off of the floor.  Then there is some kind of a romantic moment, somehow, with us half entangled in the laundry and engulfed in gratitude for so many, many things.  Free breathing, midnight make out sessions, humor in trying times, the love of our absolute lives in this house in the form of our three imperfect selves.  There's a spirituality to it, even though we're only making fun.  And then, oh excellent deity, we throw the laundry aside and sleep.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Three Muskateers (Cubed)

Last June, I quit my job as a retail manager and went back to school.  I'm in a school immersion master of arts in teaching program, which basically consists of 39 credits, a student teaching internship in an urban public high school with a mentor teacher, and a very long commute.  It's a ten month program, and I graduate in May.  Most of my experience has been positive in that I feel very close to the 15 other people in my cohort, I have a great mentor teacher, and the students are sweet.  I have dealt with the commute by using, and no, they did not pay me to write that.  (Oh, but I wish they had!)

I have two friends in my cohort who complain with me more than the others.  (Though they are all excellent complainers, which is a fine quality indeed.)  Min and Shardae are my favorite complainers.  They have style.

Min is a stealth complainer.  She is very earnest, smart, and hard working.  One would never know that she complains at all.  In fact, I hardly do.  We are too busy to really talk anymore, so we gchat (and Google didn't pay me to say that either, sadly.)  She chats me about papers and students and professors.  Her complaints are all quite reasonable and mild, which makes me feel superior somehow to the things and people we are complaining about, since Min and I are both clearly Supreme Beings if we can be so level-headed when irked.

Shardae is more of an irreverent slacker.  She is an eye roller, a sigher, a blatant texter during lectures, and she sees the pointlessness in almost everything.  This is, I have found, an underrated skill.  She complains so well I almost want to cheer.  Truly, one has to be grateful when one's friend is capable of turning shared misery into a standing ovation.  Plus, she procrastinates, but never panics.  She is sneakily supportive about my pathetic job search, and she's funny.

I'm grateful for my cohort in general--I don't know how anyone gets a masters in ten months without one.  But I am extra grateful for Shardae and Min.  This kind of effortless friendship always seems to happen in threes.

Ari is in a new (3-year-old) classroom at his school.  He moved there in January.  With all of the snow days, illnesses, and staffing changes at his school, it has been a rough transition.  His teachers have been complaining to me that he is not always listening.  Because I am training to be a teacher, this sends me into an absolute tizzy of fear.  I imagine he has oppositional defiant disorder and 17 other emotional-behavioral disabilities.  You know, the ones I see in my students and learn about and study every single day.  Of course he has no other symptoms and is generally quite eager to please, but logic has about as much to do with parenting as marshmallow peeps have to do with shoes.

Today I arrived at school to pick Ari up, and his teacher told me that he had listened so poorly that he was not allowed to go outside during recess.  He and his two friends Lulu and Ms. Hunnicutt (I share her last name because I like the southern sound of it.) were all throwing toys on the floor and laughing hysterically.  They all had to stay in during recess.

For some reason, the idea that it was a group rebellion made me relax about the whole thing.  Watching Ari with Lulu and Ms. Hunnicutt, I saw their bond more than their disruption.  I saw his pleasure in being with them, and it reminded me of some non-listening, disruptive moments in my own life.  It reminded me of Min and Shardae and I, all grown women, whining and refusing to listen to the instructions for our papers and research projects.  It reminded me of another time, too.

When I was in seventh grade, I was on a school bus with two of my friends, Gabriella and Amy, and we were doing something disruptive.  I don't remember what it was.  The window was open, and I was sitting in the seat next to it.  Gabriella was on my left.  Amy was across the aisle, standing up.  (She was supposed to be sitting.)  The bus was moving; the wind was in my hair; the sun was shining.  Someone was yelling at us.  We were not listening.  I was smiling, and I recall this feeling of unity with Amy and Gabriella, this feeling of knowing my place and being at home in it and knowing that my friends and I were rebellious and cool.  It is one of my favorite memories, in spite of its vagueness, because it holds a feeling which I have rarely reclaimed.  Still, when I think of it, I am almost breathless at the sense of well-being it evokes.  It was a euphoric moment, one that I would not trade.

So, when I think of my son not listening with Lulu and Ms. Hunnicutt, throwing toys on the floor and laughing, I hope for him to have that kind of joy.  I hope that when he is 38, he has a memory like mine.  And I don't worry anymore.