Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 will be the year I finally...

Care to complete the sentence?

I'm often not so much on the New Year's resolutions, but there are a few things that I've been wanting/needing to do for ages and years and ever.


I feel like I need to make a concerted effort towards the following, and a new year is the perfect point in time to begin.

2014 will be the year I finally:

1. Get organized. I am not kidding.
2. Stick to a writing schedule. Which leads to...
3. Write a whole book. Seriously, Lisa.
4. Embrace color.

Oh, hahahahahaha! That last one's a joke. Want to see my new scarf that my dear friend Jude knitted me to go with my neon orange jacket?
(No, I don't know why I always look so suspicious in selfies. Maybe that should be another resolution? Learn how to take a relatively normal picture of myself?)

Happy New Year! Love to all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wishing you joy, joy, happiness, delightitude, more joy, and love. So much love.

This morning Jordan asked, "Is today someone's birthday?"

I started to say "No, it's Christ..." and then realized. "Actually, yes. It's Jesus's birthday. Tonight. Tonight is when Jesus was born."

"Who's Jesus? Are we going to his house?"

Parental Christianity fail.

But we love the holiday, nonetheless.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate Christmas!

To those who don't, wishing you a joyful day!

Love and hugs to all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Powerocks Magicstick giveaway winner!

Dear entrant number 7, Ann AKA Snapdragon Surprise, you are the lucky winner of the shiny new Powerocks Magicstick!

Huge thanks to Powerocks for providing the Magicstick for the giveaway, and for introducing me to the product! I think I'm going to get one for myself now. I mean, after Christmas. Because, you know, Christmas spirit and all!

And with that, I'd like to share India's Christmas message:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

GIVEAWAY: Powerocks Magicstick! Because who doesn't need an extra charge?

Every so often someone contacts me and asks me to review a product or post a giveaway on my blog.

So far, I've declined, because none of them have been things I've thought I'd use. (Because why Why WHY are people not offering to send me pounds of chocolate or fabulous boots to review and offer to readers?)


Powerocks contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in either reviewing or giving away a Powerocks Magicstick - a portable charger for smartphones, Bluetooth headsets, cameras, GPS, e-readers, iPods, etc. Its 2800mAh battery capacity provides up to 2 full charges before needing recharging.

I should mention that they also make other devices that provide more charges or charge larger things, like iPads. Scroll down on this page for a chart.

The one I have is red, but it comes in a rainbow of colors. It comes with a USB cable and a little pouch, as shown above. And a push-button LED shows charge status. Easy, no?

Maybe you are an outdoor adventurer? Whose phone or camera needs a boost? 
 (I myself am an urban adventurer, and am not above scrounging power in a Starbucks for a quick charge. But I understand there is a paucity of coffee shops out in The Nature.)

I was given the option of either reviewing or giving away...and I was torn.

As I said, who doesn't need more charge? I could use it and write about how fabulous I thought it was and go on my merry way, never worrying that my phone would die. Fa la la la la, la la la charge!

But then I sat myself down and gave myself a talking-to. I said, "Lisa, it's almost Christmas. And look! The Powerocks Magicstick they sent you is red and cute and could make someone else very happy! Or maybe someone they know will wind up with it in their stocking. Happiness!"

I was stern. I had a tone. And thus, it was decided: my first giveaway!

So! If you are a person who needs a back-up charge for your smartphone or music or what-have-you, leave a comment. I'll pick a winner at random and announce on Monday, December 23.

You don't need to have a blog, just an email address so I can contact you.

Giveaway ends at 12:00 noon EST on December 21. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

No, this is not the cold you had last week. This is a plague of deathy death and it is much much muhuhuhuhuch worse.

Nick got a bad cold last week, and what did he do? He powered through. He coughed a lot - a lot lot - and said he didn't feel great. But on the whole, he still did all the Nick things that he always does. Work, home improvements, etc etc.

In fact, he's still coughing. It is a bad one.

Yah. And then yesterday morning I woke up with his cold.

But not just his cold. One that was much, much worse than his. I felt that he wasn't taking my cold seriously enough.

And how was he so mean as to give it to me? Doesn't he know that I have asthma and everything goes to my lungs and I always get twice as sick as him?

(This is, in fact, true. He's strong like bull.)

He was all, "Oh, stop being a martyr."

So then I walked around muttering about how he was raised by wolves and such. I mean, in between the Neti-potting and paroxysms of coughing.

He came home last night and said, "The first day is the worst. You'll feel better tomorrow."

But today, today I woke up shaking, in a cold sweat, still with this giant quantity of phlegm sitting where my lungs used to reside. My body aches. I have no energy.

And I feel very, terribly sorry for myself.

I probably won't make it to Christmas.

However. Tomorrow, if I'm still alive, I'm doing a give-away on the blog.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

And then I was struck with Holiday Tourette's and have thrown our house into a bit of a panic

In terms of cooking, I'm good at steaming vegetables, making salad. I like to bake, and I'm good at making desserts.

Beyond that, I'm mostly good at buying stuff.

I am, however, not an actual food cook. Nor am I a particularly good planner. I get all stressed and frazzled and panicky before a party.

Which would make you think that I'd avoid having them, right?

Haha! Nay!

Because! Here's something I turn out to be terrific at: inviting!

I've said before that I have excellent taste in people. Funny, interesting, amazing people. I excel at meeting fascinating people. And then I like them very much and I invite them over.

But we usually have these casual parties where we buy a whole bunch of chips and guacamole and such and Nick grills some kind of meat and we have lots of beer and wine and friends bring stuff and it all works out just fine.

In this case, I've invited quite a number of people. With kids, we're currently almost up to 20. If they maybes can come, we pass 20. For Christmas Day dinner.


I don't know how it happened. It's like suddenly I was struck with Holiday Tourette's.

I'd be having a normal conversation with a friend and out of the blue I'd bleat something like, "Christmas! Day!" or "Dinner!" and then if they didn't already have plans there they are, coming over.

The lovely thing is, we like all these people very much, and it is going to be a FUN party. I am excited that they can come. (Particularly if I can convince any of them to play charades!)

The difficulty is, there are currently 13 adults plus a few maybes, and according to Betty, with the leaves in, our table can seat 12 uncomfortably. This kind of thing stresses her out, because she wants to set a pretty table.

Me, I think, ah, well, we'll sort that out. I don't mind if I have to take my plate and eat in the living room, and I know some of our friends won't either. Nobody is uptight. It's just nice to be together.


BUT! while I'm not above making a meal of popcorn, brownies, and bourbon for myself, I do recognize that for other people, and for Christmas dinner in particular, we need Actual Food.

My mom and Nick are thinking leg of lamb and ham. Friends have asked what we need, and have offered to bring sides, a salad. My friend Meg said she always makes a Bûche de Noël. I've determined that she was offering and not just bragging about her pastry prowess. Yum!

So here's what I am wondering, because we need to make a plan: Do you have suggestions for dishes? Non-complicated and yet yummy dishes?

And any other advice? 

Besides keep your mouth shut, Lisa, when you walk out the door henceforth and until the end of the holidays? And maybe beyond intermittently that because sometimes you talk too much?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jingle bells, I am 12, fa la la la la, la la la Christmaspenisla!

Although we are not religious at all, and I was basically raised a heathen, I love Christmas. Love love love.

In other words, my attitude has improved significantly since I was the belligerent Mary in the preschool play.

Growing up in various countries, we had some suspect trees - one year in Dacca my mom flew home from India with two trees that we tied together to make one lopsided Christmas tree.

That was back in the days where plane rules were more relaxed and one could - and Betty regularly did - go through security with large pruning shears in one's purse.

No matter where we lived or what our tree was like, we always always always made a million kinds of cookies. Rolled sugar cookies and spritz cookies and jam sandwich cookies and bird's nests rolled in nuts and filled with jelly and fruitcake and bourbon balls and....

I had visions of recreating that but unlike Jessica and her cookiestravaganza, I lack the strength.

But!  You do what you can, right?

So Lyrae and I got all ready to make Christmas cookies and then, given my preference for waiting until the very last minute for everything, I realized I could only find a few cookie cutters, even though we have a ton of delightful old metal ones from my childhood.

My visions of Santa and reindeer and stars and the odd little Scottie dog that we always made were not to be.

But who cares, right? Christmas cookies can be anything, no?

So we found a Christmas tree and a bell. Also, a flower, a moon, and an airplane.

We made lots of each. Jordan happily helped with the sprinkles. A beautiful Christmas flower! A Christmas airplane! A Christmas bell!

Why a Christmas bell, Mama? (To go with the Christmas plane, naturally.)

The only trouble with the airplanes is that they seem to have a weak spot behind the wings.

Which, of course, makes them a little more, uh, festive?

Friday, December 13, 2013

In the end, I'm still Lisa

The Social Security office experience took over two hours but in the end it was totally worth it because I got the loveliest compliment and officially became American.

Let me sum up.

First I stood in front of the mirror and introduced myself to myself in a variety of ways.

"Hi! I'm Odette!"

"Nice to meet you! I'm Sadie."

"My name's Willoughby."

And I just felt foolish. It felt like when I put on very bright lipstick or a serious suit and hose and conservative shoes. When I would go to conferences with a whole lot of Men in Suits in Finance and I'd try to act normal and not blurt out weird shit.

In other words, I just didn't feel like me. Plus, I like the LJ. It is me. In the end, I couldn't let go of that.

(Also, Nick had started writing emails addressing me with names like Clothilde Nighthawk and such, and I was quite sure that even if I got to a place where I felt normal with a new name, I'd be living with names like Barmela Shoefoot for the rest of my life.)

So I decided to get rid of my middle name, keep Lisa and Jordan, and add Nick'slastname.

So I marched off to the Social Security office, waited for two hours (reading - without guilt - all the while!) and then this lovely young woman called my name.

I told her I was worried that too much time had gone by since my marriage and she assured me that people often take years, and it was no problem.

She was very pleasant and smiley and after looking at my paperwork she burst out with, "Wow! You look amazing! I hope I look as great as you when I'm your age!"
Flattery will pretty much get you everywhere with me. Perhaps you know this? I'm not proud of the fact, but it is true.

Anyway, I told her that she looked like she was a teenager, although obviously she was old enough to be working, so I was certain she'd look amazing in her 40s. Also: wear sunscreen.

At which point she asked me if I had (no!, such big regret) because looking at me she wouldn't think I was even 30.

I told her she'd just made my year.

And by the way, what was her name again? Because maybe I'd just go ahead and change my name to that instead.

I jest.

You have to bring proof of U.S. citizenship, and so I had my passport with me. She asked where I was born (India, which it says inside).

Towards the end she said, "So, while I'm in here, I'm just going to go ahead and check the box that says you're an American citizen."

"But I've always been an American. My dad was in the foreign service, so I've had an American passport since I was born."

In fact, for the first 21 years, I had a diplomatic passport. Which I guess is why my American box was never checked.

That doesn't sound very good, does it?

In any case, when you think of it, two hours isn't very long to become officially American in the  system and to delete and add a name.

As Jordan likes to say, "I had a big day."

Because I am a hugger, I had this momentary urge to leap over the counter and give her a big hug. But I just thanked her and wished her happy holidays instead.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Say my name, say my name

When my mom was learning Spanish, she started saying, "Arroz is arroz is arroz."

Yah, so. When Nick and I were engaged and he asked if I was going to change my name, my initial reaction was something like OH THE HELL NO.

And then I considered changing my name entirely, because I've never liked Lisa. I was going to take his last name and change my name to Jordan Nick'slastname.

But then a good friends of mine gave me a look and said, "Go ahead and do what you want: you'll always be Lisa to me."

And, at the age of 39, it did seem silly.

And then we went ahead and had a kid and named him Jordan and that settled it. Option off the table for me. Plus, I wasn't actually changing my last name.

I knew Nick would love it, but he also understood - there was no way he'd give up his last name for mine. He got it.

But in some ways, it would be easier for us to have the same last name. At Jordan's school, and eventually, India's school. It's not insurmountably complicated. But it would be easier.

And actually, I'd drop my middle name, keep my first and last name and add his to the end. Legally, we'd have the same last name.  How big a deal is that, I decided?

Fast forward to this past March, when, in a fit of folly, I offered to change my name as a gift to Nick for his birthday. Would he like that? In response, he sprinted off to get the key to the safe-deposit box, zoomed to the bank, and returned with our marriage certificate.

In other words, yes.

Right. So. Ready to change my name! What's in a name, right? Arroz by any other name...

But every time I made a move toward doing so, I got all clenchy and twitchy. Change my name? This name I've had for two score and then some?

Every once in a while, Nick would check in on how it was going, and I would respond with a totally involuntary shoulder twitch and say I was working on it...

So now, it's what he would like for Christmas. Would I go ahead and do the paperwork?

But I just read an article in the Sunday Times that was about names and apparently if you don't have your intended last name on your marriage certificate it's all kinds of difficult?

I've been looking on the web but am not clear on it, so I probably need to just go down to the Social Security office and ask for help.

But! If it's going to be all complicated, maybe I will change my entire name! All those names I liked that Nick wasn't OK with for our daughter can now be back on the table!

I could be:


The idea of which makes me alternately nervous and excited.

Whatcha think?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When you can stick your finger into it without it burning...

Jordan has been fantasizing about making a snowman for ages.

"When is it going to snow I want to make a snowman when is it going to snow when is it going to snow?"

So finally, it did. And there's not a lot, but enough for leafy snowballs and snowpersons. We headed out with neighbors and their kids, and together we made a, uh, snowalien.

Someone suggested we make it a snowzombie but I seriously can't handle zombie anything. Ghosts I find interesting. Zombies, terrifying.

Anyway, ours is a vegetarian snowalien. Don'tcha think?


In other winter news, my cousin Lyrae and I decided to make her grandmother Florence's fudge.

Florence was my Gramma Lillian's sister. She was a North Dakota farm wife, and never had a recipe, but one time my mom watched her making it and wrote it down as they went.
So my Gramma Lillian used to have a cardboard toilet paper roll in her kitchen. There were matches glued all around one end of the roll. They called it a Swedish flashlight.

The Swedes and the Norwegians, neighbors all, had the same jokes - the butt of them depended on your ancestry.

So the fudge.

We cooked it and cooked it and cooked it, following the somewhat vague instructions. Is it supposed to look like this? Is this simmering? This is definitely simmering. Why isn't it getting hotter? Is it too hot? Why is it taking so long to cool?

I think we initially kept the heat too low trying to get it to the "soft ball" stage. We even used a candy thermometer with a line that actually says Soft Ball and Hard Ball.

At one point Betty, Lyrae and I were all huddled around the fudge pot, with Lyrae holding the thermometer upright, Betty dipping in a spoon to see if it was sheeting, and me adjusting the temperature. And then we were all, "How many Norwegians does it take..."

In any case, my favorite part of this recipe is toward the end, when it says, "If you can stick your finger into the fudge without it burning, fudge is ready to beat."

Eventually we turned it up and it got to soft, or anyway, soft- but hard-enough ball and we said screw it, and then I beat it until the gloss went away, which doesn't happen and doesn't happen and doesn't happen and then suddenly! Happens!

Ultimately, the fudge is fantastic. If I do say so myself.

And it only took us three Norwegians most of a day.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Tales from the house of fruitcake

When Nick doesn't like something, he makes it clear that not only does he not care for it, but that he couldn't imagine anyone else liking it. This happens sometimes with vegetables. He's practically offended.

My father was exactly like this. He would almost fall on the floor gagging to show his distaste for something you'd chosen to enjoy for which he'd already expressed his dislike.

It drove me crazy.

Also like my dad, Nick speaks authoritatively, no matter what the topic. When I'm not sure what I'm talking about, you know it. Probably because I begin my sentence with, "I'm not exactly sure..." or "I think..."

Whereas when Nick doesn't know, he still sounds totally confident. He could seriously tell you that the moon is made of felt, and sound totally credible.

Which sometimes makes me question whether I know what I'm talking about.

(Felt? Really? I always thought it was made of...I don't know...moonish stuff?)

His is an ability I admire, and one I'd like to have, but don't. Which is not to say that it doesn't irritate me when I'm pretty sure I know what I'm talking about but then start second-guessing myself...

So the other day, when he saw three large containers of dried dates on the counter - labeled, by the way, "DATES" - he made a face and said, "What are those?"

I knew where this was going, and so as not to be rude, I rolled my eyes before turning to face him.


"Oh. Prunes!"


Now, I know for a fact that this man knows a hell of a lot more than I do about history, politics, and a variety of other topics, but he doesn't know his fruit. And I'd have bet good money that he couldn't tell a date from a dromedary.

"No. Prunes are dried plums and dates are dates."

"Yeah, but aren't these dried? When they're dried, they're prunes. They're the same thing."

"Dates are dates. They come from date palms. We had them in Egypt. Dried plums are prunes. They come from plum trees. I'm telling you."

"Then there's another word for them."

"No." I said this authoritatively. (Although maybe there is?)

And then he took a bite of one and said, "Ow! Dates have pits!"

Which I could've told him.

"Well, what are they all for?"

"Fruitcake. Betty is making fruitcake."

"Fruitcake?! Why?"

Why? This why held not bewilderment, not a plea for an explanation, but rather the unvoiced: Why the fuck would anyone make fruitcake? Everyone hates it! Ew yuck gross bleah if I had to eat fruitcake I'd throw it on the ground and stomp on it yucky yucky poo poo!


"[Dear friend who has terminal cancer] loves it it. As do other people." (unvoiced: so shut the hell up.)

And on a side bar, cancer is kind of like prison in conversation, don't you think? It trumps pretty much everything.


Basically, Nick's lucky I haven't ever put any raisins in his anus while he's sleeping.

Friday, November 22, 2013

An everyone update

India: India already has very strong preferences in clothing. The bad part is that it makes getting her dressed more complicated.

The good? She does seem to have her mother's taste. I'd have worn this entire outfit that in a heartbeat. Different shoes, though. Boots, even.

(Which reminds me: is she too young for boots? I do love them so...)

In fact, she has strong preferences in everything. She knows how to say, "no" - oh boy, does she know no. But she doesn't know yes - she just nods her head up and down emphatically.

I used to be able to sing almost whatever I chose while putting her to bed, but now, with her head on my shoulder, when I start something she doesn't want, she'll say "No. No. No."

I know that it's not my terrible voice or inability to carry a tune, as there are songs she does want me to sing. They do not, sadly, include Copacabana or Rhinestone Cowboy.

I'm basically down to ABC in English and Spanish. Or, "Ahbede" and "Yega," respectively.


Jordan: Contrary to the Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now look on his face, he was deeeeelighted about the scarf, and he loves stripes. He just struggles to find an appropriate face for a staged photo. Our options, unless I catch him off guard, seem to be eyes squinched and looking pained, or constipated, or melancholy.

Lately when I pick Jordan up from school we stay and he and a variety of kids his age run around like lunatics and climb on the jungle gym and generally have a great time and burn off a lot of energy.

It's been terrific for me, as I've gotten to know some interesting parents, and I get to see my son interacting with other kids while completely forgetting that I'm around. He's just himself, and he's exuberant.

There are two girls that he often plays with  - they chase and crash into each other on the slide and such. I asked their names and he said, "Kemaly." (Could be Kimberly? It took me the longest time to figure out that "Anthy" was Nancy.)

"What's her sister's name?"


"They're both named Kemaly?" I raise an eyebrow.

"Yes." He says this without hesitation.

I'm dubious.


Nana: Betty has her little rounds she makes in the neighborhood, and as such stops in at a couple stores and the dry cleaner at least several times a week. We have a nice little community here, and I didn't even realize how much of one until yesterday.

The woman who works at our dry cleaner called Nick in a panic, as Betty had fainted while she was standing at the counter. Jordan and I sprinted there from the playground, and found the woman who works there almost in tears, and Betty sitting shakily on a chair.

So we spent yesterday evening at the ER. It turns out she wasn't getting enough blood to her brain, which they think is due to her severe anemia, which they have been treating with iron, but her blood levels are still very low.

She has a special scan already scheduled for next week, as she has a weird clump of blood vessels growing somewhere in her lower intestine. They're hoping to locate and remove them, as they think that they're the cause of the anemia.

On a side bar: that ER doctor that I went on a few Match dates all those years ago with was totally right; Sibley's ER is where you want to go. (Except, he said, for a gunshot wound. Then you're better off at GW).

But for the more prosaic emergencies, head to Sibley for sure. No 6-hour wait. So fast. So nice.


Nick: Nick has been working a ton, which is really not out of the ordinary.

But when he's home, he's begun spending more time with India, and she's realized that Daddy is Magic. Oh, and Mama is Chopped Liver When Daddy's Around. As her previously-favorite person, this makes me feel not so great.

There's no subtlety with kids, is there?

This has, however, coincided with her toilet fascination, and in that regard, I'm OK with Chopped Liver status. Because Nick's previously-private morning bathroom activities have all gone to hell, what with India insisting on sitting on Daddy's lap as he reads her a book while also attempting to have a bowel movement.

This is one instance in which Jordan, who is also up with them, definitely does not compete for lap time.


Me: I have to say that my trainer was right (thanks, Vic!) and that the no alcohol business will flatten your stomach like nobody's business.

Also, Nick and I are both sleeping better and generally feeling healthier all around.

It's weird: I really struggled in the beginning, but now it just feels like a habit I've broken. This is not to say that I won't enjoy drinks over the holidays, but I'm glad to have broken the nightly cycle we were in.

In fact, Nick had a celebratory glass of wine the other night as he settled a hard case, and while I totally supported him doing so, I was cool not participating. Whereas before, we'd have each had one, then another.

I've fallen off the working-out wagon, and so I'm trying to shove that habit back to the forefront. I've also gotten very little done on the writing, what with the inability to concentrate and such.

It's all an endless juggle, really.


And speaking of holidays, which are almost upon us: One, this year I am organized in terms of our holiday card and already have it in hand. It is one of those way too many pictures of your children kind that people might make fun of you for, but I do not care. I absolutely love it.

(Now to not waste my uncharacteristic organizedness and address and send them on time...)

And two, I love hosting a big Christmas party in December (you know how I have the excellent taste in people and all, which makes for a good party), but this year I do not have the wherewithal for a variety of reasons. While I've started feeling better, we've also begun fixing the flooded walls and ceilings. I cannot handle construction and entertaining together.

And! December starts Thanksgiving weekend. The hell?

So! I've decided we'll have a party in January or February when very few people are entertaining and we need something to sparkle us during the grimmy grim grim slog through winter.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Parental continuing education: Two-kid boot camp

People had warned me before I had a second child that it's not double the work, that it's exponentially more than that.

And I have to agree. It's not in the ways I thought, though. I thought it would be all physical labor - more dirty clothes, more dishes, more toys. What I really wasn't prepared for was the emotional and physical wallop of the relentlessness of two children's competing wants and needs.

I don't believe there's any way to actually prepare for it. But! I started thinking about it, and I think you could have a day of boot camp.

It might go something like this:
  1. Get two of your friends to spend a night and day with you. Assign one to be the kid and the other the toddler.
  2. Since you'll need to be ready to juggle the two kids alone at least sometimes, and this is boot camp, your partner should leave the house for one entire day. Also, you'll need to do something with the actual kid that you already have. Send them off with the other parent.
  3. Have one friend wake up shrieking between 1:00 and 3:00 am. (For current purposes, I'm working with a kid and a toddler. BUT! If your friend is willing, and you want to recreate the newborn experience all over again, then ask them to scream every two hours. Also ask Baby Friend to cry regularly and make you guess what he or she wants and not to talk or point or really do anything for him- or herself. You'll have to choose a really good friend, of course. Realize this will be a good/terrible test in many ways, because you'll both be exhausted and crabby.)
  4. Have Kid Friend wake up any time prior to 6:30 am, stand next to you two inches from your nose, and when you awake with a start, say, "Is today a stay-home day? What are we doing today? Can I watch a video? I want waffles."
  5. Get up with Kid Friend. Start making waffles. 
  6.  Leave while they're toasting, because Toddler Friend is up. 
  7. Make sure Kid Friend understands that if he/she does not already have your full attention, they should ask or shriek for your it when you begin to leave the room. They don't need to full-out cry until you've actually left to get Toddler Friend.
  8. Bring Toddler Friend into the room and set them up with some toys.
  9. Turn your attention back to breakfast.
  10. During this time, your friends will alternate with any or all of the following whenever they choose: pull on you one at a time; pull on you at the same time; compete to sit in your lap; demand that you read a book while you're cooking eggs; play happily until one of them hits the other, thus causing both to scream; lay on the floor and kick each other; hug your legs.
  11. Be sure to ask your friends to improvise. If one of them wants to climb on top of a chair and fall off, for example, that's terrific. If Toddler Friend feels inclined to bite Kid Friend, all the better.
  12. Get waffles and eggs onto two plates. Make sure one is not bigger/more appealing than the other. Ditto for beverages. Toddler Friend probably won't notice, but Kid Friend will.
  13. At least one of them should spill a beverage and/or food on the floor.
  14. Going to the park with two adults pretending to be your children would likely garner you a lot of looks and a weird reputation in your community so it might be best to stay home. But to practice getting both kids bundled to go out, have Kid Friend demand your attention while you're trying to get Toddler Friend's coat, shoes, hat, gloves on. Toddler Friend will bolt and remove at least one item of clothing whenever you turn your attention to Kid Friend.
  15. Since you're all adults, you might at this point want to have a drink. But you can't. Or anyway, they can't. And with my rules, you can't either.
  16. Spend the day keeping Kid Friend and Toddler Friend entertained. Try painting or coloring or playing with cars and trains. Kid Friend and Toddler Friend must remember to squabble regularly over who plays with which toy.
  17. Don't feel bad about yourself if you resort to videos. Cars or The Little Mermaid are big hits here.
  18. Make lunch. Repeat Steps 10-13 here.
  19. All take a nap at the same time, but make sure one if not both resist violently beforehand.
  20. Your nap ends whenever either of them get up.
  21. Keep one and then both entertained until dinnertime. 
  22. Repeat the mealtime steps.
  23. No, Kid Friend cannot have a treat unless they finish dinner. Repeat this 54 times.
  24. Poor everyone a big glass of wine, because at this point you will likely all hate each other and boy, do you deserve it. Also, it will help you get through boot camp bathtime, which is sure to be awkward, no matter how good friends you are.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

And all I can do is just pour some tea for two. And speak my point of view but it's not sane.

What I don't know about psychiatrists is whether most of them tend to be humorless and dry or if they are just very good at professional distance, and that manifests in sort of blankness of personality in the office.


So when I took a nosedive towards the pit of despair, my solution was to just up my Zoloft.

Which is exactly what I figured a doctor would do, and I had enough, and I have new insurance that my (now-previous) doctors don't take, so I needed to find new ones, which is always so daunting. Plus, I had this quick fix at hand, and so I upped it and went on my not-terribly-merry way.

I shared my great solution with Nick, who was all, "I'm not so comfortable with you self-medicating. Could you please talk to a doctor about this? "

Coming from a line of self-medicators, was all, "Huh. OK, well, seems like overkill, but if you insist."

He did. So I did.

Which led to my visit yesterday to see a psychiatrist, as my new primary care doctor was not inclined to just dole out psychiatric medication. Coincidentally, he pointed me to someone I had seen years prior.

And I must admit there is something to be said for asking for help from people who know what they're talking about.

So when I'd seen this shrink years ago, he'd helped me get back on track. He's a medication shrink, not a talk therapy one. Although honestly, I don't know how many of those there are, and they would never be my preference for talking about things.

I'd remembered that he was abrupt, and my memory served me well.

The way my back-then therapist described him - and I think this might've been around the time she suggested that I should set my dating bar rather low - was that he didn't have a great bedside manor, and that puts people off, but he's a good doctor.

Perfect description. And all I need from him is to help with the chemical part.

I've really only met one practicing psychiatrist who was easy to chat with and has a good sense of humor, and he was my dad's last one. I mean, we didn't really joke around, but he clearly appreciated the dark humor that we doled out.

So I saw Dr. Abrupt, and he is just that, to the point of almost rudeness, although I don't believe that's his intention.

I felt awkward, and on the defensive - like I was answering all the questions wrong. Which, unless you deliberately misrepresent or can't remember, is impossible to do when you're answering questions about how you feel and your life history.

What I think it was like, though, is when Nick and I are trying to communicate directions to each other. On Saturday in Target, I told him that the kids medicine was in the back left corner. And he said, "You mean the front left corner."


Anyway, Dr. Abrupt and I didn't have smooth communication, but ultimately I would understand what he was asking and he would understand my answers.

So at one point he asked about suicide.  Have I thought about it?

Well, sure I've thought about it.

When was the last time I'd thought about it?

Maybe last week. I think about it regularly.

This turns out to be kind of an alarm-bell kind of thing to say. But what I meant was, I think about my dad, I think about the why, I try to make sense of something that doesn't make sense.

I think about how you might get to the point where you cross over from not liking your life the way it is and hating how you feel but wishing and believing it can improve to not wanting to be alive anymore, to no longer feeling able to be of this world as we know it.

Sometimes I think it's just seeking relief. Not thinking of the forever of it. Just wanting relief, a respite

I didn't say exactly that. But I explained.

So then when he asked if I've ever thought of hurting myself, I said no. Which is true.

Next he asked if I've ever thought of hurting someone else, to which I also replied with a simple no.

Because he doesn't much seem the type to roll with a comment like, "Well, except for occasionally wanting to stab my husband..."

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Just say No Vember

I can't remember if I blogged about my dating hiatus way back when. Or maybe I didn't yet have a blog.

But in any case, back when I was single and in serial dating drama trauma, my friend Tejal said that I had to take a month off. No dates for a month. None. No catching up with an old boyfriend, no just a coffee, nothing.

A month! A month of my ovaries aging and my wrinkles getting wrinklier and what if the perfect person dropped by in that month and I didn't know it?

Nope. A month. It would make me healthier and stronger.

I can't remember if it did. But I know I did it.

So. The other night Nick proposed that we take the month of November off from drinking.

We both sleep better when we haven't had anything to drink. Like, not one glass of wine with dinner. It's remarkable how much that messes with my sleep.

And sleep is something both of us value highly at this point.

Plus, we both turn too easily to a big glass of wine or a beer or three at the end of the day when work has been stressful, the kids are screaming, Mercury is in retrograde, the darkness is dark, and so on. Cheers, sweetheart.

We keep deciding that we're going to do a week or two of detox, and then one of us is like, seriously, the deep breathing is not quite doing it and my head is going to explode and I want a glass of wine, stat, and the other is all, fuck yeah, and then there you have it.

It's kind of weird. I mean, a lot of it is the ritual. You pull out a wine glass and you open the bottle and pour and just stepping away from what you were doing and into that different space feels both calming and decadent. In fact, I think it's partly ritual that makes me so look forward to a cup of tea in the morning.

So Nick decided, and I agreed, sort of. You know how we have this funny balance in which he is more the adult and I am more the kooky one and these are our roles except that sometimes I'm more mature than him and boy is he kookier than the rest of you know.

But! In circumstances like this he is good at taking a hard line. Because I am always the one with the low tolerance, who, when we're out having cocktails and someone suggests another, is like, whee! So fun! Sure! And I say and do ridiculous shit and in the moment it is very fun for all involved.

And then the next day I'm all WHY did you let me do that and now I'm going to die and why why why didn't you stop me?

Sometimes I know my limit better than Nick does, but for the most part, I've asked him to be the Voice of Reason.

So. We have a long-long-long-planned date with an old friend of mine and his girlfriend mid-month. We'll have wine with dinner. So that is our exception. Not our meeting anniversary on the 13th. Not Thanksgiving.

I was sad about the Tabard, but Nick has work stuff, and in the scheme, it's not a big deal.

Thanksgiving, however. I had a panic about Thanksgiving, because I don't know that I can breathe deeply enough to handle it. Cookies don't take the edge off in quite the same way.

I had an old boss who would buy those mini wine bottles and sneak them in her purse when they visited her mother-in-law. And first thing, she would go to the bathroom and chug a little bottle of wine. She used them as needed during the visit.

She was very matter of fact about it. This was how she coped.

At the time I was single and shocked.

Now I think, man, we're all just trying to get along in this world. I hope you're well, lady.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


I would posit that Halloween is one of the biggest reasons to have children.

Yes, of course, there's the biological urge, the passing on the family name, passing on your genes,  the desire to share love, the hopes of birthing a future cancer-curer, and what-have-you.

But I would argue that very few things beat stuffing your progeny into costumes and accompanying them into the wide world to get free candy.

Seriously. It's just incredibly delightful. When they're little, you get to pick what they wear, and you can choose the cutest/most ridiculous things you like.

And then when they get older, they get really excited about dressing up.
They do not care about being original. It's just the sheer joy of being Superman.

"You're Superman? Hey, me too! This is terrific!"

"C'mon Superman! Let's go get some candy!"
Thinking that we could practice saying "Trick or treat!" I asked Jordan what he was going say when he went to the houses. He replied, "I'm Superman! Give me candy!"

But in fact, he was very polite.

One 20-something hipster candy giver-outer, at whose house we accidentally trick-or-treated twice, said that I was her favorite mom. "You're the Thank You Very Much Mom!"

Made me proud.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Knock knock. Who's there? Orange you glad I'm not a banana?

I don't know what you might call the compulsion to wear utterly ridiculous outfits, but I have it. I don't necessarily do it - but I have the definite urge.

I mean, I used to sometimes, with Maude. But I haven't had the gumption to do so on my own. But I itch to...

You know how I got all those Liberty for Target matching floral items, or how I'd like to wear stripes top to bottom. I just like the inanity of it.

So I got this fantastic orange jacket.

I love it so. It basically goes with everything. You might think I'm kidding, but I am not. It's so screaming orange, I consider it a neutral.

So there's that.

And then I was in Gap the other day and they have these cords.
Which would match my jacket kind of perfectly.

I joked about getting them but I didn't. But the more I think about it, the more I would enjoy wearing those with the jacket.

And then I'd just need some orange shoes.

Don't you think?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

India: 18 months = 1.5 years!

Dear India, my sweet, belligerent, stubborn, charming little dollop of girly-whirly delight,

You are now 18 months old, and suddenly you are no longer a baby but a girl!  Look at you! You are big and strong and a force to be reckoned with.

Recently your hair has gotten a lot longer, and lately it's not standing straight up as much. I guess it's a mullet.  I'm going to miss that sticky-uppy hair when it goes away.

First thing in the morning, when we go in to get you, you exclaim, "Mek!" Which is your way of requesting, very kindly and politely, a cup of milk. "Mek!"

You then point to the top of your sleepsack and say, "Naps!" We open the snaps.

Your lack of language skills does not keep you from voicing your OPINIONS. Oh, you have them. You have preferences, and you make them loud and clear.

There are shirts and pants that you will not put on. "No. Nonononononono."

You can't yet explain it's because they're CRUNCHY or whatever it is you might find distasteful, but no matter how cute I tell you they are, they're not going on your body.

Your favorite jacket is neon pink. Basically, you seem to embrace the same strong colors that I do. And it's not because that's all you have to choose from; you have plenty of more subdued hand-me-downs.

These are the words that you now have: Mama, Daddy, Nana, Jordan (pronounced kind of like Darde), shoes (doos!), socks (dock!), window (meeno), moon (mun!), agua, water, ice, clothes, dirty, clean, diaper, up, down, night-night, dark, duck, doggy, book, more, stop, tickle, monster, hiccup (picccup!), help you (hapu!), oatmeal (homu, pretty much like Jordan said it), car, big truck (biituck!), pasta (bata), dirt, hat, walk, button, people, ball, baby, nose, eyes.

The dangerous thing about asking you where your nose is is that you will then point to the other person's nose after yours. And then after nose typically comes eyes, at which point you tend to poke the unsuspecting person right in his or hers.

"Eye!" Poke!

I know you have more words, but these are the ones I can remember. I had forgotten how fun this stage is, with all the new words and the delight with learning and producing them.

You now have 11 teeth - three of them molars. You are definitely not one to suffer in silence, and thus we have all been suffering, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. Molars are brutal.

You looooove your brother, and he loves you back, but he's so torn between enjoying you and being completely, meanly jealous. He takes whatever toy you are playing with, or whines because you have it. He does one thing, you do another, one or both of you cry, sometimes I yell. In other words, lately evenings have kind of sucked for me, and I count the minutes until I can get you both in bed.

But when it's one-on-one with either of you, things are great. And sometimes together you are delightful. When I see you enjoying each other, making each other giggle, it fills my heart so full.

I love you love you love you.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Well, duh

You know, you'd think that after all this experience, I'd be primed to recognize when I am tip-toeing ever deeper into the Vast Ocean of Depression (VOD).

Why do I have to wait until I'm way down in it? Every time?

I mean, for Pete's sake, I wrote a post last week about how I'm doing so much better at the even-keeling! I haven't sunk since way back in the dark ages of my pregnantness! I am good! I am doing the breaststroke, head out of water! I am fine!

I even linked to this post to contrast it with my now. Because now is not like then! Right?

Yeah. So why do I feel so not fine?

Today I decided to make a list:

List of Things That Are Currently Wrong With Me (Not Comprehensive)
  • I'm struggling to concentrate.
  • I have no desire to write - one of the things I enjoy most.
    • This might be because I feel kind of...blank. What do I have to say that's interesting?
    • Also, writing means concentrating. Oh, look! A squirrel!
  • I don't want to exercise at all. Exercise means getting up.
  • Boy, am I irritable. Why does everyone suck?
  • My fuse is terribly short - shorter than my attention span. 
    • So shut up.
      • No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Man. Why do I suck?
  • Yah, so generally, I suck.
  • Mostly what I'd like to do is just sit around and drink wine.
    • Oh, and also shove cookies into my face hole. 
      • And then go to sleep.
        • It would be even nicer if I didn't have to get up and take care of children and you know, do stuff.

So. Once I laid them out, I was all, oh, look! Here we are, underwater!

The bad/good thing is, I've been here before. So maybe I don't actually suck or hate everyone, starting with myself. Also, importantly, I'm not all curled up in a hole, uninterested in getting dressed or breathing or whatever. I'm just, you know, not so much on top of the VOD.

But I am wearing clothes! And inhaling wine and cookies breathing! And doing stuff!

I used to cry and cry. I would start crying and not stop for days. I don't want the crying back, but it certainly is obvious.

Friday, October 11, 2013

If the rain comes they run and hide their heads...

It will perhaps not come as a surprise to you to hear how sunshine-dependent I am. How stormy weather pulls me straight down.

We're on our, what, second day of rainy coldy grey pouring rain rain rain? And I feel like it's been raining my entire life.

Nick doesn't love this weather, but it doesn't affect his mood. I've talked before about how Nick is fairly even-keeled, and he never has the lows that I have. But he also never has the highs.

I would love to be able to maintain an even keel. I am much better at it now, and I'm consistently happier than I've ever been. I still have ups and downs, but they're not quite as uppy or downy, and they're briefer in duration.

I haven't descended into the dread pit of despair since I was pregnant and unmedicated.

But it seems you're either an even-keeler or an up-and-downer. Me, I so appreciate the sustained periods of good, because I have had extended periods of hideously bad. I don't know what it would be like to just take happy for granted.

And similarly, I think, I appreciate my marriage so much more because it took so long to get to a healthy relationship. I don't know if I would recognize what I have, if I hadn't worked so hard to get here, and had so many painful experiences along the way.

I'd love to say that I would, but I don't believe it.

I feel like I appreciate him intensely, and work all the harder for a good relationship, because I have lived in the dark, and I like living in the light.

Nick and I have our struggles, of course, and though we haven't had any giant, screaming fights lately, I'm not so naive as to believe they are behind us.

We get regularly frustrated and annoyed with each other, but we are both quick to apologize and quick to take responsibility. I love this man with my whole heart. Unreservedly and unabashedly. I know he loves me right back just as much.

And so, the other day, when he was stomping around in frustration, saying: "WHERE is my bike lock? I know I left it right here. And since I'm the ONLY ONE WHO PUTS THINGS AWAY, it should still be here, shouldn't it!?"

I made a giant effort to bite my tongue and squelch the desire to punch him in the ouchie bits.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Here's what the fox says: shut the f*ck up

India is teething, which means a lot of 2:00 am screaming, which then necessitates shuffling down the hall to her room and rocking and patting and shuffling back down the hall and not being able to fall back asleep.

And so there I am, lying in bed wondering what the fox says.

You'd think I'd be able to sing that damn song start to finish by now, but I get confused about which animals are in which order.

Nick has no patience for the song anymore, but I am telling you, it keeps my descamisados happy.

We regularly have dance parties to The Fox. Everyone likes to dance.

Or we can be having a screaming meltdown on the sidewalk over the tragic fact that we are WALKING IN THE DIRECTION SOMEONE DOES NOT WANT TO BE WALKING, LIKE HOME AND NOT THE PARK or fighting over a found acorn or who knows what but it is TRAGIC. And no amount of logic or silly walking can fix it.

And so I'll pull out my phone and say, "Hey! You guys! What does the fox say?"

And then I'll find the video and start it and there I am, the Pied Piper, followed by suddenly cooperative little minions, eyes focused, mouths closed, arms outstretched.

That's worth a hell of a lot of gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! to me.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . .

 Dear Dad,

I've been listening to Evita over and over and lately. I know you'd enjoy this; it was one of the soundtracks of my childhood.

I remember you brought pillows with us to the theater so I could sit tall enough to see.

Last week I got this wild hare to hear it, and now Jordan is hooked as well. He holds my phone out to Nick and says, "Daddy, these are show tunes."

Undelighted, Nick replies, "Yes. Great."

Three years ago today, we went out on Nick's boat and scattered your ashes in the Potomac. It was a pretty place, but a cold grey day, and even though I believe that once you're dead, your soul, spirit, whatever it is, departs your corporeal being, I still hated leaving you out there in the cold.

I was going to say that it's better than being stuck on the mantle or in the closet, but I don't know - you're like me, not so outdoorsy. You were, I mean. But you loved the water. I think we did the right thing.

You know, I rarely make that mistake with tenses anymore.

I've had so many reconnections lately: Peace Corps friends, my friend Leigh from Rome. And couple months ago I got together with a bunch of Delhi friends - kids you knew and liked. We're hosting a reunion here next May - it'll be a party I know you'd enjoy. They remember you fondly - your generosity, your smile, your laugh.

I like hearing those memories.

I've been working on my book, although I don't know if you'd be proud or not, because so much of it is about you in some way. I mean, it's about me. But the susurration of suicide echos throughout.

This would make you angry, if you were still here. I know it would. I've been reading through my archives, and you were so angry that I talked and wrote about what we went through with you. You were angry that I claimed my experience with your choices and behavior as mine.

It was self-preservation to start talking, to start writing, to seek support. I do hope that moving forward, we can eliminate the stigma of mental illness.

I know it was shame that made you so angry. It made you feel weak, which you despised.

You've now been gone for almost four-and-a-half years. In some ways, you were gone long before that. Most of your joy was, anyway. And in others, you are still very present.

My kids are so energetic and delightful, and they fill up all of our lives. Jordan is funny and creative and sensitive. India is a little bulldozer.  They both adore books, and I could easily picture them sitting on your lap, listening intently.

Both of them would make you laugh.

While time is so unkind in so many ways, it's the only thing I've found that actually eases emotional pain. Four-and-a-half years. They've helped. Mom is doing a lot better. I'm doing a lot better.

The other day I started to write, "The bad thing about suicide..." I stopped and was all, well, Lisa, the bad thing about suicide is that you're dead.

And then I laughed really hard, because yeah. The bad thing about suicide is that you're dead.

Today you would be 77. That's a pretty cool number. Happy birthday. I miss you.



Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Picking at scabs

I've been going through blog archives, looking at stuff that I've written about my dad.

Partly I'm doing it for research purposes. To refresh my memory. But when I start delving into the surreal things we lived through over and over, I just can't  help myself.

I had unpublished some posts because they made him angry. Because it was his story to keep secret, and not mine to tell. His actions were his, and basically, I had no business being affected by them. It certainly wasn't fair of me to be mad at him.

Now I know that it was the crazy talking. That he couldn't really see or feel beyond himself or his own pain. A rational human being would understand that his actions devastated his family and friends.

Anyway, I'm not sure how they'll publish, but if you see some really old posts pop up, that's why.

Also, sorry about a lot of heavy suicide-y posts lately. Tomorrow's his birthday. Things should lighten up after that.

Tra la!

Monday, September 30, 2013

It seems crazy but you must believe...

The other day I found myself standing in line and the ATM and "Colonel Peron...Eva Duarte..." (in high and low voices, naturally) accidentally fell out of my mouth. 

Because about a week ago I felt the burning need to purchase the Evita soundtrack, and then listen to it 372 times. Per day.

You could say that when I get interested in something, I tend to get very interested.  I pick a topic and I focus on it. Until I move onto the next ones. For example, the rabies. Or sinkholes.

Please note that I've long been interested in parasites, and poop, and my imaginary penis. None of these are the topic of the day/week/month. And it's not that I'm not scared of rabies or sinkholes. But I don't talk about them all the time until holy crap did you see that 25-acre one in Louisiana?

Oh! And! Before I forget! my friend Amanda sent me this absolute gem, saying that she wasn't sure what it meant that she saw it and immediately thought of me.

Naturally, I was flattered.

So Evita. I grew up hearing to it over and over, and knew all the lines. It turns out that I still know quite a few of them. So every day lately, I've been walking around with Evita running from start to finish through my head.

"So what happens now? Another suitcase in another hall..."

Mostly it is in my head.

And it's not at all awkward in public when it doesn't stay there. Not at all.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five years

The other day a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she just can't relate to people who don't find her amusing.

I thought, boy, do I know a whole lot about this. Years of first dates worth.

Me, I assume that people who don't find me funny just have no sense of humor. And so it was  sad, really, during those single years, to learn that so many men in DC lack a sense of humor.

When Nick and I got engaged, 10 weeks from our first date, let's be honest: we barely knew each other. But we found each other really amusing.

We got married seven months later. So we hadn't even been together a year.

Things could've gone very badly.

And in fact, since September 27, 2008, quite a number of things have gone badly. But not between us. Sometimes you work very hard and sometimes you get very lucky. Sometimes you just jump, and you are fortunate enough to have leapt into the right arms at the right time.

I feel so lucky that Nick chose me and I chose him back. That he and I are together five years later, that we've weathered deaths and moves and childbirth and construction. That we've built this wonderful life, that we have a solid, loving family.

And you know, I'm now extra glad that during that first really difficult year of marriage I never actually stabbed him in his sleep.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The morgue

It's not that I'd forgotten about the morgue.

Forgotten is not the right word. I still remember how it felt, late in the afternoon, after we'd contacted all the hospitals, bugged the police multiple times, and had run out of ideas on where to look and call, when Nick suggested we contact the morgue.  The morgue.

Who calls the morgue to find their dad?

And then we did. And then we had our answer. And it was a million times worse than driving around making calls.

So it's not that I have forgotten, but rather that I no longer think about it all the time. It doesn't live just beneath the surface of my skin anymore.

Time is healing, therapy is healing, but neither erase.

Sometimes I am more equipped to remember than others.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is hosting a community walk on the Mall this Saturday to raise funds and awareness. I will be away, visiting a friend I haven't seen in 15 years. Otherwise I'd be walking. Nick and my mom will be walking in memory of my dad.

Also, the AFSP hosts walks on various dates all over the country.

If suicide or mental illness has touched your life, and you want to walk with an incredibly supportive group of people, you should join. Registration is free.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

If I could buy my reasoning I'd pay to lose

I assume this is because I'm an introvert, but maybe it's because I'm me. I don't know if other people are like this as well, but sometimes I am just so not in the mood to hear my husband, light of my life, love of my days, talk.

Sometimes in the evening - and tonight, post-back-to-school-night, was one of them - I just want to sit in the living room in peace. The kids are in bed, Betty has gone up, and I just want to sit here and read blog posts or respond to emails or write or browse the Internet, or hell, I don't know, pick my nose.

Without any talking, without interacting. No music. No extra sounds. I don't want to react. I don't want to generate conversation. I don't want to feign interest. I just want to be in my own little head, in my own little space.

Nick, however, doesn't seem to have this need. He's happy to just talk and talk. We don't see each other enough, and when we do, he wants to chat.

Whereas sometimes I feel like it would be so nice if we could just BE. Not talking. Just being.

It's not that I need to be all alone, although that is lovely on occasion. It's that I don't want to see him. I just don't want to talk to him.

And after a certain number of "Mmm hmm," and "Huh, that's interesting," and "Ah"s, I kind of want to yell, "PLEASE STOP TALKING TO ME JUST STOP STOP STOP TALKING I JUST WANT TO NOT TALK I DON'T FEEL LIKE PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU LET'S PLAY THE QUIET GAME NO MORE TALKING."

But I don't.

Sometimes I get critical. Sometimes I get all argumentative, because I just don't want to engage, and whatever he is saying is irritating, even if yesterday I might've agreed. Because responding is tiresome, and it would be so much more soothing to be silent.

I haven't quite worked out what to do about this.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

India: Month 17

Dear India,

One of our friends was over the other evening just before dinner, and we were sitting on the floor talking as you climbed on me and over and lifted your arms for me to pick you up and then squirmed out of my arms and ran and got a book and brought it back and then crawled over one of my legs and wriggled under my knee and and and...

The friend said, "My God. She's busier than Jordan was, isn't she?"

You are busier than Jordan was, something I could not have imagined possible. You climb, you run, you lift up your arms for a hug and then turn to try to leap down. You are often moments from landing on your head out of my arms, off the couch, off a wall...

You constantly demand attention, either in the form of reading to you, hugging you, or making sure you don't injure yourself.

This is one of my favorite of your habits: if your dad or Nana or I are sitting on the floor, you'll approach, then turn around, walk backwards, and slowly back into a lap. You have such confidence that we are just waiting, arms outstretched, ready to serve as chairs.

And we are.

When you are really comfortable, you put both hands behind your head.

You have some words - notably: up, milk, more, agua, hot, doggy (pronounced doddy), shoes (doos!), buh-bye, night-night - but not enough to express very much of what you WANT, and it enrages you. In fact, you dive into rage with alacrity, and when you scream you mean business.

Sometimes we have the joy of both you and your brother melting down on the floor at the same time, and it is then, as I turn to the blender and make myself a kale-Merlot-cappuccino smoothie, that I really question how the Mormons raise all those children with no coffee and no liquor.

I'm kidding, of course. Kale would make it weird.

You are so very bold and opinionated, and while this means you can push me to my last drop of patience and sometimes keeping up with you and preventing you from falling on your head squeezes all the energy out of me, I love this about you. It is important to me to raise you to be a strong, confident woman, who walks her own path and believes in her abilities.

We read a lot of Mother Goose before bed, and there's one page where a mother mouse is kissing her baby mouse, and just lately, when we get to that page, you point to them and turn your little face up for kisses. I look down at your sweetness, at the confidence of being adored and the trust in your slightly upturned blue eyes - eyes that mirror mine - and I marvel at all the luck and grace that got me to this point.

Every day, you and your brother are the cutest things I've ever seen. It's so weird, but the thought and emotion of it strike me and I behave like it's an epiphany. Every single day.

You're both even more adorable when you're sound asleep.

I love you love you love you.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Six categories of totally legitimate reasons to fling yourself on the ground and scream. (Ages 1-4)

  1. Shoes:
    1. Have straps. Straaaaaaaaaps. And no matter how hard you pick at them, the Velcro holds. The fucking Velcro! Life is tragic.
    2. Must be worn to leave the house. Who came up with this bullshit?
    3. Cannot locate themselves. 
    4. Fit on particular feet. It is not arbitrary.
  2. Waffles:
    1. Do not magically appear in the freezer and sometimes run out. They are the only thing you want to eat.
    2. Are loathsome. You don't want to even take a bite. You wanted a bagel. Or cereal. It's hard to tell. You can't articulate.
    3. This waffle piece is still connected to that waffle piece. They need to be separated.
    4. Also, there is not enough syrup. Not! Enough! Syrup!
    5. But you didn't want syrup. You wanted jam. 
    6. You didn't want it cut it into pieces. You wanted to eat it whole, like a sandwich.
  3. Your friend Sophie: 
    1. Is talking about the dump truck. You saw the duuump truck! No talking (by anyone but you) about the dump truck!
    2. Has the audacity to walk quickly while we are walking slowly. (Perhaps because it is hard to sob and walk quickly? Perhaps because she is trying to distance herself from the noise? In any case, the inhumanity.)
  4. Grilled cheese:
    1. Is not supposed to be cut like that. It is supposed to be cut "sidey."
    2. Is not mac and cheese.
    3. Contains cheese. Too much cheese!
  5.  Water:
    1. Is too wet. In the bath.
    2.  Gets in your noooose when you try to breathe underwater.
    3. Is coldy! When you ask for cold ice water.
  6. School shirts:
    1. Are plain white.
    2. With no designs. The hell?
    3. Are for school. Which you go to on all the not-stay-home days, to your chagrin. Fucking school shirts.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Snippet...does this intrigue?

When you think of foreign travel, you might think of the Louvre in Paris, or Aztec ruins in Mexico, or picture yourself basking on a Costa Rican beach or enjoying an espresso at a charming café in Rome. There are so many lovely and intriguing possibilities, and I doubt that anyone flies to a foreign land hoping to take a day-long bus tour with the Jerry Springer crowd of that country.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pieces of Internet awesome. Chacha-chacha-chacha-chow!

The Holstee Manifesto isn't new, but it's new to me. Don't we all need a manifesto?

Fake Burlington Coat Factory Twitter account. For example: It's getting hot outside, so cool down with a new coat or jacket.

How To Recognise Famous Painters According To The Internet. For example: If everyone – including the women – looks like Putin, then it’s van Eyck.

And finally, in case you've been in an Internet-free zone recently, the song that's been on a continuous loop at our house since I introduced Jordan and India to it a week ago. I desperately want the backup dancers to join us at our underwear dance party.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Know your audience

It is such a what-the-fuck world.

Yesterday I got a call from an unknown 202 number, which turned out to be Nick, who was in a locked-down federal building near the Navy Yard, not allowed to use his phone. He borrowed a land line to let me know he was fine.

He was, thank God, not in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, 12 other people, who went to work on a seemingly-normal Monday, were shot to death by a gunman, who was himself killed.

It was a day of obsessively checking the news and Twitter as the reports came in. Navy Yard is right across town from us. The first I heard of the shooting was a friend who works there posting on Facebook about being on lockdown.

So many federal buildings and schools were on lockdown. There might be two more shooters on the loose.

Also, when did lockdown come into common parlance? And shelter-in-place? These terms sound so normal now.

As I said, what the fuck?

Random, terrifying violence and destruction, and as it is going on and the death toll is mounting, on Twitter people are insisting that guns are not the problem and this is why you should be able to take guns to work and the shooter was a black guy and if Obama had a son it would look like him and President Obama is going to use this for political gain and and and.

It just made me so sad and so angry and so want to throat punch so many people.

Last night, Dana posted the following on Facebook, and it seemed just right: "Fourth-grade jokes are a welcome relief on days with heavy, incomprehensible news."

I immediately offered Jordan's favorite: What does a train that has a cold say? Ah-choo choo!


So then I turned around and tried to tell Jordan one of those jokes I'd just read.

"Jordan! Why did the chicken cross the playground?"

"Chicken!? Why is a chicken on the playground?"

"There's not really a chicken...It's just a joke. To be funny."

"Oh. Are we going to the playground?"

"Not tonight. You want to know the answer?"

"Of the chicken? OK."

"To get to the other slide! You know, going from one slide...to..." 

FLAT SILENCE, with a look of MAMA, YOU'RE AN IDIOT. (Coupled with the realization, on my part, that you need to know the chicken crossing the road in the first place, and Mama, you're an idiot.)

"Jordan, would you like some orange juice in a DOO-DOO CUP?"

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" (Beams at me for my brilliance.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wine rules: I don't know much, but this I know:

  1. Kirkland Pinot Grigio goes down pretty smoothly with Velveeta macaroni and cheese.

  2. On the other hand, Cabernet and fish sticks are terrible together.

  3. Chewing Big Red gum before drinking red wine is a horrendous mistake.

  4. Merlot pairs nicely with popcorn and a mid-90s vintage Grey's Anatomy and sitting on the couch all alone.

  5. Drinking either white or red out of a sippy cup cannot be recommended, but there are worse things in life.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Does this make you want to keep reading? Is it too heavy from the outset?

I am 11 when I learn I am good in a crisis, and that my mother is not.

While I am a prolific reader, I don’t actually yet know the phrase, “good in a crisis.” Nor have I ever heard of suicide.

But I know that something is terribly, terribly wrong when out of the blue my mother turns from rinsing vegetables at the kitchen sink, blurts out, “Jesus God!” and rushes for the stairs, leaving the faucet running. I sprint after her, up the hardwood stairs, turning left into their bedroom at the top, and follow her into their bathroom.

We find my father naked and pale, slumped in the bottom of the shower.

I do not yet know what he has done - and even when later he tells me about his cuts, it will still be years before I actually understand - but I know this is an emergency.

My mother seems flustered, and so I say firmly, “Call 911!” We both run for the phone in the next room, and she dials.

It is an ugly damp winter morning. In my memory, it's December. It might be November, though. It is grey and cold and we have recently bought my Christmas dress - a rich green velvet. I remember my delight over the color and texture of the dress more vividly than I remember my terror over my father.

The ambulance arrives, and men rush in and upstairs. We stay in the living room while my mother figures out what to do with us. We've only been living in McLean for just over a year, so we don't know a lot of people.

In what always seems to be an impressively short amount of time they carry him out, covered. My mom follows them to the hospital.

She doesn't tell us anything. In retrospect, I know she doesn't know. You never know, until they get him to the hospital, until they see how much damage he's wrought.

My brother (who has either just turned eight, or is about to) and I spend the rest of the day with neighbors. They are kind, and we are scared and confused, and my main memory from the afternoon is of the heavy greyness hovering at the windows. And that we had baked pear for dessert.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Oranges and lemons say the bells of Saint Clement's

1. Colanders!

I have clearly wasted so much money on bath toys, when all I had to do was buy two colanders.
Whoa! That is cool!
I know.
Hey! The water goes right down!
Awesome! Where are you? Where are me?
2. Nail polish in clothing. Or rather: out, damned spot!

Can you get nail polish out of clothing? I've tried dabbing nail polish remover, but so far, no dice.

Because, here's the thing. We had friends with a daughter just older than Jordan over this past weekend...and I had set aside a Ziploc bag of many enticing nail colors to pass on to a lovely teenage friend. Jordan spotted it and ooh! orange blue red anotherblue purple whoa!

We headed out to the deck with children prancing in delight, following the Pied Polisher, eyes glued to the Ziploc bag.

If you've ever seen those shark feeding frenzies, it was a bit like that with the polishing colors. And everyone, including one of the dads, wound up with multi-colored nails.

All this to say, Jordan has been on a nail-painting bender.

3. Lemons and onions

What can you make with too many lemons and onions? Not together. We just happen to have an astounding amount of both.

Besides lemonade? Which we have made and is delighful.

Onionade, on the other hand, sounds the opposite of refreshing. And I could only imagine would make one wildly unpopular.

Any ideas? I can't come up with anything particularly appealing. And in fact, have spent my mental energy coming up with unappealing dishes (see onionade above), such as onion pudding, onion ice cream, onion-peach buckle...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conversations with my four-year old

Out of the blue:

"I don't like Daddy."

"You don't like Daddy? Why not?"

"His poops are really stinky!"

Stuck in traffic:

"It's taking a very long time to get there! Is this traffic?"

"This is terrible traffic."

"Well. This is really irritating."

At the DMV:

"Mama, this isn't a disgusting stinky bathroom like you said was going to happen."

"You are right. It's clean."

"It's clean!  Are you going to poop?"

Dressing for success:

"If I open my bead necklaces and connect them, I can make a belt!"

"You certainly can."

"Look! I'm putting on my belt! It's purple! And gold! And red!!"

"It's beautiful! What a colorful belt!"

"And now I'm going to go to work!"


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No. They live this way.

Australian Builder asked me last week if I remembered the Mt. Pleasant drive-by shooter from the early 90s. And I immediately said yes.

He actually played an important role in our lives, in a weird way.

So this confluence of things has had me thinking about living in my first apartment with Maude.

That conversation plus state of our house - and telling people who haven't seen the house in it's normal state that we're living with all these open walls and ceilings and plastic and waiting...but it's fine living like this (which is true)...

And most importantly, seeing Maude recently, who added a detail to the story of the night of her almost-rape....

Because, like my farting-on-the-plane incident, this is one of our stories, to be repeated forward forever and ever.

I've written about this before, but instead of sending you back and forth, I'm just going re-tell it here, because I believe I'm a better storyteller than seven (yes, almost seven!) years ago.

So. Here you go.

Way back right after college, my friend Maude and I lived in this sketchy apartment in Mt. Pleasant, back when the neighborhood was considered marginal.

I had an entry-level job at a non-profit and Maude worked at a day care, and $700 rent was about what we could swing. We had a slum lord whose name I cannot remember; Lyrae, who lived with us the first summer, named him Mr. Mostaccioli, and that's what's stuck in my mind.

The wonderful neighbors, the fun parties, the furniture acquired from the curb, the bodegas that sold the flavors of Tang Maude and I grew up with, Mr. Mostaccioli, the drive-by shooter, the rapist.


During the spring of 1993, there was a drive-by shooter on the loose, and, it turned out, a serial rapist, who ultimately broke into our apartment and attacked Maude.

We had lived in our apartment almost a year. We were both, to put it mildly, rather casual housekeepers. Which is to say, our place was always a wreck. Piles of clothes, piles of books, newspapers, mail.

We weren't hoarders. We just weren't tidy. 

That night, I wasn't home, because my brother, who was visiting, and I were at the house of friends until late. Somewhere around midnight we called to say we were sleeping there because we were afraid of being shot on the street coming home that late.

I do not exaggerate here. It was a scary time.

Maude. Maude had fortunately dozed off in a big comfy chair waiting for her in-a-band boyfriend, and at 3:00 am awoke to a half-naked man about to put one of my sweaters over her face. He'd found it on the floor. Which, as mentioned, is where we tended to keep much of our clothing.

The half-naked was his M.O. He left his boxers at every scene.

Kind of an expensive habit, actually.

We were shocked that the police weren't interested in taking the boxers, although this was prior to DNA evidence, Nick has since pointed out.

And the police didn't jump at Maude's band-boyfriend's suggestion that since each person has a personal smell, wouldn't they want to take them to maybe match the smell when they ultimately caught the guy?

(Look. He was very cute, and in a band.)

It is that night, past 3:00 am. Maude is asleep in the big squishy chair in the front. The chair that makes it impossible for anyone to get a good grip on her.

Serial rapist, we later come to understand, has been watching our apartment. He knows to climb over the wall in the back. To stack up bricks high enough to get to the back window. He is thin enough to fit under the bars. He is strong enough to break the flimsy lock.

He undresses in the back, which is Maude's bedroom, leaves his boxers in the bathroom on the way to the living room in the front.

Our living room lights are on, because Maude was up reading while she was waiting.

Maude awoke, she says, not because she heard anything. She just sensed a presence.

And when she saw the guy and the sweater - a black alpaca cardigan - she immediately began to scream very loudly. She screamed and struggled and he hit her and tried very hard to subdue her but to no avail.

She is tough.

Our walls were thin, and our neighbors were good friends, and they heard her and called 911 immediately.

And this is where the drive-by shooter is important.

The rapist knew that because of the drive-by shooter, the police were all over our neighborhood. They were a block or so away when this happened, in fact. He knew there would be a cop nearby. So when he could not subdue her, he stopped attacking and ran.

It turned out, once he was caught, that his girlfriend lived in the neighborhood. He knew it well.

A police officer arrived almost immediately, walked in, looked around at the chaos of the living room: clothing strewn about, books on the floor, general calamity. He did a double take.

"Did HE do this?!!?"

Maude said, "Uh, no. We live like this."

This is the story I know by heart.

What I didn't know was the following. Minutes later, more police arrived. The next one to walk in looked around and began, "Did HE do this?!!?"

To which the first officer drily replied, "No. They live this way."