Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Turn around, bright eyes...

I have a mini high school reunion this weekend. This weekend!!!

If you know me then you know this means I'm going to spend the weekend laughing uproariously, chatting, dancing, laughing some more, and not sleeping. Next week I will have a tremendous emotional hangover.

And every minute will have been worth it.

So now let's talk about outfits. Because you know I love few things as much as I love to talk about clothing and footwear.

We know it truly doesn't matter what I wear, because these are people who love me. Who knew me when I was an angsty, insecure teenager with a Cyndi Lauper crisscross shaved into the side of my head sporting the best Mary Quant blue mascara and a neon green RELAX T-shirt that I wish I still had.

OK. So. There are two nights: a bar night and a dinner night. I could wear jeans or a dress to either. Mostly I need to be able to dance. It might be warm and it might be cold because Ned Stark is long dead and winter is here.

Here are options I pulled together over the weekend:

1. Embroidered mirrored jumpsuit 

This is, I think, the most fabulous. My mom made it in the 1960s for a friend. This friend kept it in storage for decades after she stopped wearing it, and then gave it to me.

The main downside for a party is that it is hard to get into and out of and I can't zip up the back by myself.

2. Jeans and a black top and platform boots. 

Maybe for Friday? I don't know how flattering this top is, though it is floaty and comfy. I could pair it with the jean jacket in the last option.

3. Black dress and booties

What about the booties, though? Too solid black with the screamily white legs above?

3. Black dress and superhero boots. Seriously--look at the backs.

4. Blue dress and boots (or booties? Or sandals?).

SAME DRESS just turned inside out! So tricky! And it has a secret pocket whether it's on the black or blue side! Could be with booties or boots.

5. Black sundress and sandals (in case it is warm) with chunky jewelry and jean jacket.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Blame it on the train but the boss is already there...

Every morning, Nick calls me to tell me how school drop-off went.

Sometimes the kids leave the house belligerent and they get in the car and sing songs or spell words, which is their newest form of entertainment. Jordan loves the hard words with sneaky letters. I can't even tell you how much "psychology" delighted him. So tricksy!

Jordan learned to read and spell with the same approach that's being used with India, so he will prompt her with sounds. It's lovely.

They're both in great moods when they're dropped off.

And sometimes we're all fine, and we had the right flavor of bagel and we didn't accidentally put jam when we know that India only likes butter on the odd days of the month except in months that start with A when the moon is full and Mercury isn't in retrograde.

Which is to say sometimes we have a harmonious morning and teeth get brushed and my daughter even brushes her hair and then all hell breaks loose on the way to school.

This is the rarer scenario. Typically some calamity befalls us at breakfast (see jam above) or during the shoe-putting-on portion of the morning. But then Nick manages to get them giggling on the way over.

He always calls to report and chat.

For the past couple months these calls have come as I'm either doing my veryveryfast walk to work, or jogging because I'm late or want to make a light.

I've come to realize that because I'm such a fast walker and such a slow runner, at this point I do both at about the same speed, and I look ridiculous either way.

In any case, Nick calls to check in and we talk about the kids and then at some point I say, "I've got nothin'" because the fact is that we saw each other right before we went to sleep and upon awaking, and really zero has happened that he doesn't already know.


This morning he didn't call me.

I was settled into work when I realized that he hadn't called.

He didn't call me. Why didn't he call me?

We hadn't fought, or even disagreed. Had I done something to annoy him?

It's true that I struggle in the mornings. And he got up and went to rowing practice and emptied the dishwasher and made breakfast and took the kids to school.

What did I even do? Got myself dressed and gave them vitamins.

I had to leave. I mean, not to be all Bangles about it, but I can't be late 'cause then I guess I just won't get paid.

I should've done more, though. Maybe he thinks I'm inadequate. Maybe I am inadequate.

It's true that I'm tired and crabby quite a lot, and it's likely that I think I'm more creative and funnier than I actually am.

Maybe it's all of these things and so much more and he just doesn't want to talk to me.

I could wait. I'll wait. I have lots of work do to. I'll wait and see if he calls and then I'll know if he's mad.

Except that I can't focus.

And actually, we're married. He's not some Match guy who suddenly went from emailing every day to silence. He's my husband. He might just be angry about...I don't know. Something.

He gets mad too easily. Why's he mad at me again? Yeah, well, I've got plenty of stuff I could be enraged about as well.

Or maybe he's not mad. No. They got in a terrible accident on the way to school. They're on the way to the hospital, and nobody has contacted me yet.

Oh my god, and here I've been all indignant about Nick being angry with me, when he might be on life support. I have to call right now.

I'll call Nick and then the school and then hospitals if I have to.

Nick answers immediately. "Hi love!"

 He sounds happyThey're clearly still alive.

"Hi! How was drop-off?"

"Great! We got out late and had to hustle. I called around nine but you didn't answer."


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Today you are six

My dear India,

Today you are six. Last night was your last night of five. I got a little nostalgic.

Today, six years ago, my life changed forever in the best possible way.

Because Jordan was late, and because I'd had a Cesarean, the midwife had told me to expect you'd be two weeks late. She'd told me they wouldn't induce, and I would just have to wait.

In all honesty, she made me feel bad for my choices, and she scared me, and made me cry. I almost didn't go back. But I really, really didn't want another C-section if I could avoid it.

Your due date was April 29. So really, they said, I was looking at mid-May.

There are people who like being pregnant, and I am not one of them. So I didn't embrace the idea of two extra weeks of pregnancy. But I'd waited so long for you; I was prepared for two extra weeks.

I was completely unprepared for you to be 10 days early.

Six years ago last night I went to bed exhausted, uncomfortable, and ooh, so crabby. I woke up at 2:00 am when my water broke. This hadn't happened to me with Jordan, and I thought I was peeing. For a really long time, like way longer than made sense. I woke up your daddy to verify.

Kim had just finished making your room, because the room you have now was part of a larger space with no door. He was all stressed out, racing to get done with that construction before you arrived.

Incidentally, Kim lobbied hard for us to name you after him. Kim is, as he pointed out, also a girl's name.

But I knew in my heart that your first name would either be Lillian or India, and I needed to spend a little time with you before I named you.

So six years ago, earlier than expected, you came into this world on your own time, and full of life. And you continue to embrace the world on your own terms.

You have strong opinions, and you are stubborn. While sometimes I'm so frustrated with you I want to pull my hair out, I respect your strength and determination.

You're emotionally and physically strong. You can go back and forth on the monkey bars, turning around at one end and then the next without stopping.

When we talk about what to do if a grown up tries to grab you, you say, "If someone does that, I'm going to bite him and kick him in the penis SO HARD."

And I hope this is never tested, but I believe you would.

We read together at night, snuggled in your bed, and those quiet moments are the best part of my day.

You have recently taken an interest in Judy Blume's Fudge books. I never read those as a kid, but your dad did, and he was delighted to introduce you guys to them.

Jordan feels he's too old for them, but he listens. Sometimes when your dad is reading to you and I'm hanging out in Jordan's room while he's working on his comic book, I hear him giggle when Daddy gets to a funny part.

You're surrounded by avid readers and you can't wait to be able to read as well.

We had a truly brutal stretch at the beginning of this year. Every single day you were an utter demon. You screamed, refused to brush teeth, refused to get dressed, and fought about everything.

At first I thought the transition back to school was hard. But then this went on. And on.

You told me you hated me, every single day. This hurt my heart, every single day. You bounced off the walls--literally--every night at bedtime.

You were relentlessly mean. It was like someone had taken our girl and replaced her with Asmodeus.

I complained yet again about the brutality of bedtime, and my friend Wendy asked what had precipitated this period of terribleness. What had happened right before I started?

And you know what? The end of December, the allergist put you on a steroid inhaler for asthma. Those inhalers are supposed to be localized. I take one, and it doesn't make me crazy. But it made you craaaaaaaazy.

The five weeks you were on it were five weeks of hell. I took you off, and within 24 hours you were kind again. We haven't seen that level of Asmodeusness since.

This is not to say that life with you is an endless dream. When you're annoyed, you have a scream that I feel in the base of my skull. It makes me want to beat things with a hammer.

But that is life, with all its ups and downs. People are hard to live with, but what would this life be without the people we love?

And you are one of the people I love most in the entire universe. You light my world every single day. When I don't see you, I miss you, and when I pick you up from school you beam and charge into my arms.

I can still pick you up, and you still wrap your arms and legs around me, and mash your face against mine. One day you'll be too big, and I will miss this terribly.

You and your brother mostly get along so well. And of course, you have your Nana right here with us. Today after school she's taking you to Target to pick your present, which is what you specifically requested and locked her into weeks ago.

I have to imagine it will be Shopkins or Hatchimals. Both of which are small and adorable and really, really hurt when you step on them barefoot.

Right now you call me Biba, That's just your name for me. People sometimes hear it and ask why, I and I say you like it. I like that I have my own special name.

For a while, and for no reason, it was Mumpika. You play with these the way I call you Indi, Indi Bindi, Belinda, Bunny (short for Hunny Bunny), and so on.

At night before you sleep, we snuggle into each other and talk about how much we love each other. And then, on the rare nights you're really tired and embracing sleep, you'll say, "It's not time for talking; it's time for sleeping."

This is what I am always saying to you.

I'm so lucky I'm your mama and you're my girl.

You're a delight and a treasure and I love you love you love you.

Happy birthday.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Let me hear your body talk, your body talk

In February, I returned to work full time, albeit temporarily. This job will last until my kids are out of school mid-June.

I’m back in my old office, which has been terrific in myriad ways.

I could write a whole post about returning to the juggle of work and motherhood, and my current perspective. But really, I want to talk about returning to the gym and to my beloved trainer, Vic.

The building has a free gym. The one where all those years ago I pushed the red button and minced out the door.

Since I left my job four and a half years ago, I’d been working out at home or running, so this has really been my return to a gym and to a trainer.

I'd forgotten about gym interactions.

This gym is rather warm. So one of my colleagues, who works out regularly, bought two large, very blowy floor fans.

As it turns out, men were taking them into the locker room to dry themselves.

Yes. It’s quite a visual.

On Monday Vic was having me do a variety of exercises, one of which necessitated a bench. We typically do three sets of different exercises, so we weren’t using the bench the whole time. So we’d moved on to squats when a guy came over and took the bench away without saying anything.

He pulled it into the center of the room and sat down and did a set of grunty biceps curls. And then hung out flipping through Tinder. I know because I walked by.

I considered pointedly asking if we could take it for one set, but I settled for glaring in his direction. And in fact there was another bench (which he could have used), and we just moved over there.

So I was thinking I would sometime try to fart right next to him, but then after I left the gym I realized I couldn’t really tell him apart from the other 20-something guys. This means I may have to fart near all of them, one at a time.

Although since I can’t distinguish them, I might accidentally persecute a nice guy. And get a bad reputation.

So maybe not.

In any case, at the end of each workout, Vic has you lie face down a mat, and he presses on your back to align your spine.

And on a side bar, does anyone besides me have trouble with “lie” and “lay”? Lie for people, except “Now I lay me down to sleep,” which incidentally scared the crap out of me as a child because what little kid wants to die before they wake?

But grammatically speaking, that’s because you’re laying yourself down. Morally, I don’t think you should teach kids a prayer that makes them think they’re going to perish before dawn.

So I lay flat on the mat, face down. And Vic said, “Please put your left cheek on the mat.”

I just figured this was some new stretch, so I twisted my body, trying to get the left side of my butt flat against the mat. This, while trying to keep my face against the mat, was no small effort.

He was all, “What are you doing?”

And I was all, “It’s not that easy getting just my left butt cheek on the mat.”

And then he died laughing and I sure hope that the young guys were focusing on Tinder because I’m an idiot.

Monday, April 09, 2018

I recall the yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees

Nine years ago, spring was exactly like this.

And by exactly like this, I mean, it wasn't. Month after month, it was cold and grey. It was supposed to be spring. It was officially spring. And yet it was relentlessly cold and grey.

We kept waiting for spring, and it kept not arriving.

I remember this specifically because nine years ago I was pregnant, and didn't have enough clothing for the endless cold.

I remember this specifically because nine years ago in April, my dad attempted suicide. And nine years ago in May, he took his life.

By May, the weather was gorgeous. Azalea and rhododendron bushes were in full bloom, drenching us with color. The day my dad disappeared was warm, sunny, lush.

My mom called to say he'd disappeared and I remember thinking, "But it's too beautiful a day to die."

But the too beautiful so long to get here. My parents went to Hawaii that year, to visit a dear friend. It was a bad year in Hawaii--unseasonably cold, no sun.

I wonder if if Dad just couldn't hold on any longer. Sunshine, and with it hope, arrived too late.

I'm not suicidal, but I'm extremely affected by quantity and quality of light. I hate the cold, but it's the light I can't manage without.

We've had so many Dementor breeding days, where the sun refuses to shine. The time change helped, because now it's light later. But so many days, we have no sun, just a pale, too-bright glare.

When the sun comes out, everything changes.

Last Friday it was both warm and sunny. Every parent I'd ever met, it seemed, was at the park with their kids. It was glorious. I felt alive, I felt hopeful.

Then Saturday it was grim and cold again. There were snowflakes.

Our school had their annual fundraiser, for which I was volunteering, and I couldn't get dressed. The dress I'd planned to wear would now have to be worn with tights. My tights only came up so far, and then there was this little strip of my middle that pooched above, and you could see it with my fitted dress and it was all lowering my self esteem and anyway it just physically felt terrible.

After many rejected outfits and significant decline in enthusiasm on my part, India pulled out one of my favorite dresses, which my friend Leigh purchased for me at an estate sale last summer. Perfect.

Seriously. One day Leigh called and said she only had 15 minutes to stop in and she wanted to drop off three pieces of clothing she'd bought for me. And they were all this amazing.

Yes my picture is a little blurry but you get the general idea. People asked if I wore it because it looks like cherry blossoms and I was all, "I wore it because it was too cold to be naked and I literally couldn't bear any other item in my closet."

OK, I said a toned-down version and didn't bring up nudity with fellow parents I don't even know.

But my lord, the drama trauma of getting dressed anymore. This is too cold. This is too shiny. This is too tight that is too short this is too this and that is too that and REALLY THE PROBLEM IS THAT WINTER WILL NOT END.

On Sunday I managed to force one kid out the door to the park, where she ran and played and I planted myself in the sun, standing shoulders up around my ears and arms pressed to my sides in my wool sweater and hood and down coat, face turned skyward like a desperate sunflower.

I understand that it's not particularly sophisticated to be unable to remember a different state. When it rains, it feels to me like it's been raining my entire life. When I'm sick, I'm so immersed in it I cannot remember how it feels to be well.

And when I'm cold, I can't recall how it feels to be warmed by the sun. When I think of last summer, I can visualize what I was wearing; I just can't remember how it felt.

I used to think my problem was the cold. It's not. I's the light.

I mean, I resent the hell out of the cold. But it's the sun I'm desperate for. I just want some sunshine.

And also if I could put my coat in the closet and then not take it out again for many many many months that would be kind of perfect as well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

How to have lice

When we get lice, we don't like to just get lice.

We like to pair our lice with something calamitous, like thieves coming through the skylights and stealing laptops and jewelry.

But now we have bars on the skylights.

So this time, we paired our lice with a house-next-door fire.


First we discovered the lice. I think last time we had the thieving first. I don't know that we're particular about order, really.

Last weekend, we all had plans, and we were all late leaving the house. This wound up being a blessing.

I was late to take India to meet friends. I was upstairs rushing around because the lateness! The lateness of leaving late! And then India said, "Mama, come downstairs! Jordan smells smoke!"

Jordan has this nose. He can be standing way across the room and be all, "Ugh. Your breath smells like onions."

His nose stands in stark contrast to his ears, which function only selectively, and not at all when you're standing right next to him telling him, in no uncertain terms, that it is time to brush teeth.

In any case, I came downstairs and the three of us were trying to figure out where the smoke was coming from. And then I realized that the smoke detectors in our basement tenants' apartment were all screaming.

I yelled for Nick to come down. It smelled like plastic burning.

Nick said, "I think it's coming from the closet."

We have this storage closet that used to connect the basement and the ground floor. I probably wrote about it because there were these precarious stairs of death down to the dark and deathy dungeon where we did our laundry when we first moved in.

Now it's where we store our Christmas tree and coats and such.

So Nick went in to try and see if there was a fire in the back of the closet. He started flinging coats out and pulling out boxes as the closet filled up with smoke. Smoke started spreading out through the ground floor, and I ran to call 911.

I didn't realize I was scared until the woman on the phone said, "It's going to be OK. Stay with me." And I realized I'd started crying.

She told me to get everyone outside.

Betty had been planning to go to Safeway, so she headed out the back, and the rest of us headed out the front.

One of our tenants and their dog were already out front.

Three fire trucks arrived within minutes, and neighbors started to congregate.

I'd called 911 a few months ago because all of our basement smoke alarms were going off, and we couldn't figure out why. (Issue turned out to be batteries. Nick replaced them all.)

So I recognized a few of the firemen.

They checked our basement and ground floor, then determined it was our next-door neighbor's house.

Nobody was home, so they pulled out axes. They went into the basement with hoses pumping.

I'd never seen this happen anywhere outside of a Richard Scarry book.

A little while later they emerged with a charred and smoking futon, which they then hosed thoroughly on the sidewalk.

The inhabitant of the basement arrived about 15 minutes into the operation. He'd been out walking his dog. He told Nick he'd left a candle burning.

A few minutes after that, we met a woman who'd just moved into the house a month ago. She'd been home the whole time but not known what was going on. She told us she was reading upstairs and  smelled smoke, so she looked out the window and saw all these fire trucks.

Which says to me no smoke detectors were screaming in their house.

I feel exceptionally lucky that we were home, and that Nick is assiduous about keeping smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, filters, etc up to date. I feel lucky we smelled the smoke as early into the fire as we did, and that the fire fighters were immediately responsive.

I thanked one of the guys for arriving so quickly and he said, "We were eating lunch literally around the corner."

I contend it is a universal belief that firemen are hot. They will rush into buildings that are ON FIRE to save people.

What did surprise me, however, was that a couple of them lit cigarettes after the fire was out.

We're in a row house, and ours houses were built over a hundred years ago. This means we share walls, that beams come through.

This also means that our ground floor still smells like smoke. But nothing in our house was damaged.

Most importantly, nobody was hurt.

What it's made me realize is that we are vulnerable. Lots of things in life are out of our control, yes. But we try to keep our house as safe as possible. But! Our houses all connect. Any of our neighbors could be smoking in bed or leave candles unattended or what-have-you.

One of our neighbors said that 15 years ago an entire row house burned on our block. He asked if we have a fire emergency plan.

We do not. Do you have a fire emergency plan? Do you know how you'd get out?

In our house, have two options--going down and out the front door, or up to the roof. But we've not practiced this with the kids or my mom. Am I confident my mom could get out the little window leading to the roof, or jump over to a neighboring rooftop?

Not completely.

So there's that. And that's where we are. And where we were.

Oh, and we also oiled all our heads and combed repeatedly with the lice comb. Because, you know, the lice.

I was pretty shaken up for a while. That night, when we were getting ready for bed, I said, "The kids and I should make cookies to take to the firehouse."

Nick said, "That would be nice."

Then I said, "Although if we run out of time maybe we could just drop off a couple cartons of Marlboros."

"That's the Lisa I know and love"