Monthly Archives: December 2008

Part four: As the world turns

Part four of a multi-part post.  Click for parts one, two, and three.  More to follow, because we are still here in the hospital.

            After looking at the x-ray, the doctor began bandying about the word “hospital.”  This was not, however, the moment when I started to worry.  The worry started when she summoned the ambulance to drive us the ten minutes to the hospital.  When I realized she did not think it was safe for the baby to spend 15 minutes off of the oxygen, I had to ask the question.

            “This is curable, right?”

            “Completely curable,” she replied, as the nurse showed up to get a booger sample from the baby’s nose to send to the lab.  That’s a job I think I would pass up – Snot Analysis.

            By now it was noon, and I had called the school to tell them that, yes, the other mothers would need to take my boys home.  I was also very, very hungry and unsure where in this scenario I was supposed to get lunch.  Selfish though this sounds, remember that I have breast milk to make.  I asked the nurse whether there was anywhere in the building to get food.  A few minutes later, as the firemen and firewoman arrived, the nurse handed me a baggie filled with cookies. Butter cookies.

            Let me reiterate: if you ever have any reason to interact with the staff at UCLA Brentwood, do not fuck with them or I will have to find you.   These are the ladies who packed me butter cookies for my ride to the hospital with my sick baby.

            The firefighters and I awaited the paramedics who were to escort us in the ambulance, which would arrive shortly alongside the fire engine already parked outside the doctors’ office.  “Oh, my,” I told them, “my sons are going to be so jealous.” 

We realized that we had a problem.  Someone had to hold Lilah in the ambulance, but I also had to move my car, which, you may recall, had been valet parked.  I could not leave it in the building overnight, and I was pretty sure the parking attendants were not going to deliver it all the way to UCLA-Santa Monica.

            Fortunately, there was a woman doing a ride-along in the ambulance.  (I feel like at this point my narrative has the cadence of a Curious George story and this is the point at which I should say, “George was curious.”)  The plan was that she would hold the baby while I would follow in my car, a plan of which the head paramedic clearly did not approve.  But, I am a pragmatic kind of person, and I knew full well that Lilah would not be any better off with me strapped to a bed holding her than with someone else strapped to a bed holding her.  So, the woman seated herself on the bed.

            At which point all pragmatism flew straight out the window and smacked into the tables outside Café Luxe across the street.  There was no fucking way I was letting a stranger hold my baby with the oxygen mask as she rode to the hospital.  The valet could keep my stinkin’ car as far as I was concerned. 

            And then the very nice fire fighters offered to drive my car over for me.  Which is how I rode in an ambulance with the siren on, followed by a fire department car.  I can only assume the fire engine went back to the station to await an actual fire.  As we drove, cars moved out of the way.  I watched through the back window as I held the baby with one hand and ate butter cookies with the other.

            It was all very dramatic.  

Part three: Asymmetry

This is part three of a multi-part post.  Click here for parts one and two.  More to follow.

            Because it is in Brentwood, our pediatrician’s office is in a building with valet parking only.  On Friday, as I hefted my whimpering baby out of the car, I was quite happy to have someone else park the damned thing.

            “I can squeeze you in at 10:45,” the receptionist told me.

            “Sounds good.  I’ll wait right here in case someone cancels in the meantime.”  The receptionists at UCLA Brentwood are perhaps the finest in their field.  These ladies are, for some reason, always patient, pleasant, and efficient, which is no small feat for women who spend all day talking to insurance companies and irate patients.  They remember who I am every time I call or show up, although I guess they hear from me pretty frequently, what with one child or another.  They took one look at me and my baby and did what had to be done: they told a nurse of our plight.  I tell you all of this so that you know, should you ever have occasion to deal with these people, you had best mind your manners or I’ll be kicking your ass up and down the mean streets of Brentwood.

            Because the staff in the office is so fantastic, they got us into a room.  “In case the doctor gets here before any scheduled patients, so you are ready to see her,” said the nurse.  As it happens, that is precisely how things worked out.  Which is how, fifteen minutes later, Dr. Garvey was holding a stethoscope to Lilah’s chest and then telling me it sounded like pneumonia.

            That was when our day started to get interesting.

            First of all, I learned that our doctors’ office has an x-ray machine.  Second, I learned that one diagnoses pneumonia via x-ray.  Third, I learned that the best way to x-ray a baby’s chest is for her mother to hold her arms in the air while her tushie rests on a stool.  Before we get to the part when I learned Lilah had pneumonia, there is the moment when I stood in the hallway and saw my little girl’s lung x-ray hanging on the viewing screen.

            At that moment, I had a momentary memory of seeing a chest x-ray once before, almost three decades ago.  I was in my father’s house, and somehow I came upon a large envelope.  I have no recollection of how I found it or what I asked, whether it was shown to me or whether I stumbled upon it.  But, somehow, I was looking at an x-ray of a very sick set of lungs, and my father was telling me that those were the pictures taken of my mother’s chest while she was being diagnosed with the lung cancer that had already spread around her body.

            Yes, despite the fact that my father neglected to keep the home movies my mother made for her children before she died, he did manage to stow away the x-rays of her diseased lungs for our viewing pleasure.  He’s kind of a sentimental guy.  It was creepy, remembering her x-rays while looking at my daughter’s.  But, because I am a sucker for things like metaphor and allusion, I immediately started to wonder what was poetic about the moment.

            Not much, of course.  In this case, it simply was symmetry without meaning.

Part Two: Albuterol

Part two of a multi-part post.  Click here for part one.  More tomorrow.

            Zachary, properly chastened, was cooperative and quick about drop-off.  Frankly, he is never sad to see me go, once I have adjusted his wardrobe to his satisfaction and escorted him over to the activity of his choice.  Lilah was snorting like a pug in the Baby Bjorn while I escorted Benjamin to the bathroom, where he made his daily comment about the lovely pink disk that lives in the urinal and that he delights to pee upon.

            Unfortunately, the other parents who live near us were not yet at school, and I paced anxiously awaiting the arrival of one or the other.  When one arrived, I shanghaied her before she even got in the door.  Her elder child leaves school later, so she would have one spare car seat to buckle in Benjamin, and she was happy to drive him home if I didn’t make it back on time.

            There is a moment that a stay-at-home parent of more than one child knows all too well.  It is the moment after a frantic morning when one or more of the elder children has been deposited at school.  Although we hate to admit it, there is incredible relief in having checked him off the list of things to worry about.  For me, there is a “one down, one to go” phenomenon between leaving Zach in room one and leaving Ben in room nine.  As I leave one and then the other in the presence of his friends and classmates, as they run off with barely a nod back in my direction, I notice a marked increase in the oxygen around me.  I call it the Albuterol Effect.

            Yes, dropping my sons off at school some mornings feels like using my inhaler during an asthma attack.  Judge me if you will, but if you have more than one child, you probably know just how much of a relief it is to know you have a few hours to collect yourself and address the needs of the younger child.

Part one: Friday

This will be the first in a multi-part series about the events of this weekend.  Tune in tomorrow for part two.

            Our baby clothes have made the rounds.  Some began with us in Philadelphia with Zachary, cycled through Benjamin in London, took a trip to Boston for a friend’s baby, and then ended up with Lilah here in Los Angeles.  When my friend, T, brought us back the clothes we had given her, she also gave us a selection handed down from a couple of babies in Plymouth Meeting and some snazzy little outfits her own kids had gotten as gifts.  We make the exchanges on visits to each other, since the financial and ecological benefits of handing down clothes are rather diminished by shipping.  Now L.A. friends are supplementing with sleepers and onesies that their children have outgrown.

            The 3-6 month clothes are, of course, the most plentiful.  For some reason, people give a lot of 3-6 month clothes to new babies, which is why parents of six-month-olds suddenly realize with a shock that they may have to actually purchase clothing for their children.  But have we ever inherited some lovely 3-6 month things!  There is a classy light blue outfit from Janie and Jack, a rather girly pant-set with a giant flower on the tush, a sweatshirt from our alma mater, day-of-the-week onesies missing  Monday and Saturday (presumably sacrificed to a blow-out diaper or dripping Tri-Vi-Sol), and a tiny red t-shirt with the word “activist” across the front. 

            Friday morning, I dressed her in flowered corduroy overalls and a white turtleneck.  It wasn’t cold enough to warrant such an outfit, but the mornings have been chilly, and Baby Girl has been sick.  I mean sick.  The kind of sick that keeps Mommy in the glider all night, holding a snorting and wheezing newborn fully upright while looking for a comfortable position for her own neck as she tries to sleep.  The kind of sick that has her parents counting wet diapers in fear of dehydration.  The kind of sick that produces a lot of laundry.

            The flowered overalls lasted all of seven minutes before Lilah threw up her morning feeding.  She needed a new outfit, the boys needed quarters for the tzedaka box at school, Zachary didn’t want to come down off the top bunk, and we had three minutes to get into the car.  And Lilah had not had a wet diaper in four-and-a-half hours.  It was very clear that this baby needed to see a doctor.  Conveniently, our pediatrician is located a minute and thirty-seven seconds from the boys’ preschool and opens ten minutes after I drop the boys at school.  If we ever got to school.

            I don’t mean to give the impression that I was alone in all of this.  For the past six weeks or so, we have had a mother’s helper in the morning.  He comes at 7 and helps get the boys fed, packs their lunches, and breaks up fistfights while Lilah and I get ourselves ready.  We really had no place in the budget for this mother’s helper, but I knew I would need assistance in the beginning getting all three kids into the car by 8:30 AM.  Enter Brad, a 26 year old who is in L.A. to write and took on our household as a temporary source of income.  Brad, who my children adore and emulate.  Brad, who just that morning had told me he found a full-time job and this would be his last day.

            Brad changed Lilah into the onesie and sleeper I grabbed from the dresser while I called a friend who is the mother of Zach’s friend.  “Nat, Lilah is really sick and I need to get her to the doctor this morning.  Would you be able to bring Zach home to your house if I can’t be at school to pick him up by noon?”  One son accounted for, I tried to reach a couple parents of Benjamin’s classmates who live near us, but no one was picking up, and I was trying to hand out quarters while putting on shoes and changing my vomit-covered shirt.  I’d have to catch them at school.

            If we ever got to school.  Who knows if it was anxiety over Brad leaving or Lilah’s illness or simply being a pain in the ass, but Zachary was being a four-year-old that morning.  As we shoved children and stuff into the minivan, Zach refused to be buckled.  Brad had committed the unpardonable offense of putting Zachary’s lunch in the car without proper authorization.  “I wanted to carry my lunch out,” Zach whined, warming up his voice for the tantrum to come.

            Now, I understand, truly I do, that schlepping his lunch box out to the car is both an honor and a privilege.  Today, at least.  On days when my hands are filled with thirty-nine other things, the child refuses to carry his lunch, but on Friday, when we had a whole other adult to help, four adult hands in total, Zachary decided that his lunch was safe only in his own hands.  And, while I appreciate that Zach could only come to this decision after Brad had already placed said lunch into the car, I am forced to admit that negotiating a remedy to this situation was not my top priority.

            “Not today, Zachary.  Do you hear me?  Not today.  Your sister is very, very sick.  I need to get her to the doctor.  So, you cannot make a fuss over this today.” 

            He settled down, albeit grudgingly, and allowed me to buckle him.  We waved goodbye to Brad and, after I had stopped to wipe off my side view mirror, we headed out.  It turned out to be one of those mornings when traffic was flowing with some regularity between the Pico and Sunset exits of the 405, and Sunset Boulevard had no cars jamming up the left lane trying to turn across the opposing traffic, and we made good time to the school.

Sunday weigh-in: week one

I know, I know.  You are expecting a weigh-in this morning; alas, I cannot provide one.  You see, I am not in a position right now to weigh myself in the nude on my home scale, which is in itself a very, very long story.  I promise as soon as I get home to weigh in.  In the meantime, fess up, people.  How much weight did you lose or gain this week?  And what was your best workout of the week?

Stay tuned for posts about just why I am away from home right now…

Lookin’ for love

            Last year, I went onto the Bloggers’ Choice Awards and was pleased as punch to discover that Slouching Mom had nominated me for The Blogitzer, which means she thinks I’m way smart.  My confidence as a writer was awfully low right about then, and it meant a lot that she would nominate me.  So, imagine my chagrin when I posted a link and got only a handful of votes.

             The problem, it turned out, was technical.  The site wasn’t registering the votes for me, but by the time we had figured it out, folks were tired of voting for me over and over, to no avail.  I got a whopping 13 votes all year, and one of those was mine.

              Well, here we are again.  Slouching Mom nominated me once again, although you’ll note she did not nominate me for Hottest Mommy Blogger, a title I surely would deserve if I didn’t have baby vomit dripping down my cleavage.  Once again my confidence as a writer is circling the toilet bowl in the publishing houses that are ever so enthusiastically rejecting my work.  I could use a little lovin’.  (And, Slouchy, thank you for yours!)

               So, I know some of you hate these awards, but if the rest of you wouldn’t mind, please click here or on the handy little button to the right.

               And, if anyone thinks baby vomit is hot, you know where to find me.

The 72 days of Christmas

            “I wish I was  still at my school in London” has become a familiar refrain around here.  The first time Zachary said it, I was surprised.  He does not remember most of those children, and some were rather cruel to him.  His teacher was wonderful, but so is his teacher here.  Why would he want to be there?

            “They celebrate gooder holidays.”

            Setting aside for a moment that he knows perfectly well that the superlative of “good” is “better,” his statement is simply untrue.  He went to a church preschool in London and attends a synagogue one here.  At his church preschool, they only celebrated Christmas and Easter.  Here, there seems to be a Jewish holiday every other week, not counting the weekly Shabbat celebrations.

            Yet, somehow he has gotten it into his head that Christmas is better than any Jewish holiday, which is a little mystifying.  All his friends are from the school, which is to say Jewish.  He does not spend time in malls.  He does not watch commercials.  Other than a few lights around the neighborhood, nothing in his field of vision has shifted.

            His brother has no idea that Christmas is afoot, but he sure likes the lights.  He likes to go out for walks in the early evening, exclaiming over icicle lights and luminous reindeer, speaking in both English and Spanish, mind you.  He is so impressed he forgets to pretend that he does not know Spanish.

            All of this is to say that, for a Jewish household, we’ve had our fill of Christmas already.  It’s not our freakin’ holiday and it does nothing for me or my husband.  While I am interested to learn about the ways that Christmas is meaningful to you and your family, it is not meaningful to me. I truly want to hear about the religious aspects of this holiday because I respect its significance in so many lives, but I really do not need to know every detail of how you shop, bake, and decorate, unless it is particularly moving as a family event for you.

            I ask those of you who celebrate Christmas to remember this: It is not a secular holiday.  It is not an American holiday.  It is a Christian holiday, a beautiful and special time.  But for me it is just another day, a rather annoying one on which everything is closed.  Do not try to mask it with “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays.”  My faith only has a very minor holiday at this time of year, so if you really want to honor my faith, you’ll need to check in with me in September.

            Go.  Celebrate with your church and your family.  That is as it should be.  But also remember, please, that not everyone spends five weeks obsessing about your major holidays.  Please, now and again, talk to me about something other than Christmas.  Since I’m hearing plenty about it from my kids.

Repealing the inheritance tax

            I love stuff.  Things.  Possessions.  I love nick-knacks and dishes and towels.  I adore Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn and my local bookstore.  But most of all, I love clothes.  Expensive, well-made, unique clothing from boutiques that feature creative designers.  Owning the right shoes for the perfect outfit for the precise occasion.  Looking funky and individual yet completely appropriate.  Oh, God, do I love clothes.

            You’d never know it to see me in my Old Navy t-shirts and L.L. Bean bargain rack vest.  Most people, in fact, think I don’t give two and a half shits about clothing.  Since I cannot afford to shop at boutiques, I figure why spend the money for the middle ground?  I get the cheap stuff or the well-made boring stuff because I cannot have what my heart desires.  Which is the highest of the high end.

            Most of the time, I don’t bother buying clothes at all.  I mean, I buy them, but not like an American.  I am cheap.  I am very, very cheap.  And every single purchase, I think, “Well, I don’t really need that.”  It drives my husband bananas.  He is the only man I have ever met who wishes his wife would occasionally spend money without thinking about it.

            In fact, not only do I resist buying clothing, but I obsess about pretty much all expenditures other than food and diapers.  Actually, I worry about every time we eat away from home, too, so I guess food is not exempt. 

            This attitude has kept me from acquiring the massive amount of crap that dominates most American households.  People don’t seem to buy less stuff if they have less money – they just buy cheaper stuff.  But, me?  I have high-high-high class taste and not so much the budget for it.  So, I buy a few cheap things and leave it at that.

            But, over the last year, my attitude has started to change.  Because, I have begun to look around my house and realize how almost everything is destined for a landfill some day.  My kids’ Crocs, for example.  Or the body pillow I used in pregnancy.  And the foam letters on our floor.  And dirty tissues.  And stickers.  And the rice cooker.  And the little plastic thing that holds on the price tag.  And the big wooden giraffes with our kids’ names on them.  And our socks, my toothbrush, old telephones, broken fire trucks, all the stuffed animals.

            It makes me gasp with horror.  Go ahead, try it.  I’ll wait here while you look around the room and think about how, sooner or later, all the things that you see that cannot be recycled will be in a landfill somewhere.

            Then look at your kids (or someone else’s if you don’t have any).  You get my point?  They are inheriting our landfills. 

            Recycling is only part of the solution.  We are over-consuming.  We are filling our lives with stuff that must be produced, creating waste and pollution.  It is shipped to us, creating smog and greenhouse gasses.  Then we throw it away.  Nice fucking world to leave our kids.  Talk about an inheritance tax.

            I have started trying to avoid buying new things for the kids.  Toys, yeah, I buy new when I have to.   But baby gear?  And clothes for the children?  Whatever.  They can pass it down from child to child to family to family.  I can buy at the children’s used clothing store around the corner.  I can abase myself before the other parents at the preschool and take their hand-me-downs.  Whereas once I used to just try to limit how much stuff we got them, I am taking it a step further and trying to also make sure we buy as much used as possible.

            There will be things I have to buy new.  I did not like the paltry winter coat selection at the consignment shop, and if I cannot find someone to give Zach a jacket in the next day or two, I’m buying it with our store credit at the Gap.  I figure I have three kids who will eventually wear it.

            I, however, and not growing.  I have a coat.  I do not need a new one.  I might like one, but I do not need one.  There is nothing I need right away.  I can be patient and wait for the things I would like to appear in a thrift shop.  I have lately found myself preferring to just buy there.

            So, the time has come.  The time has fucking COME.  I am taking the plunge and making the commitment.  For the next year.  Twelve months. Three hundred and sixty-five days.  I will not buy myself any new clothes.  I will only shop used for my clothing.  Furthermore, I will not drive a half an hour to find the clothes, but rather shop where I am.

            The only exceptions are socks, bras, underwear, and shoes.  The first three are for obvious reasons, and the fourth has the complicated roots of a Jewish superstition about wearing a dead person’s shoes.  Don’t ask.  But, I honestly have never bought many shoes (that whole cheap thing, again).  Mostly running shoes and sandals.  I may find I need one pair of each in the coming year.

            Ironically, this may free me up to buy more of the clothes I want.  I may actually discover that the cheaper price allows me to actually have funky, different shirts because they only cost $4.  Or, that may start to seem expensive to me.  Times are hard, after all.

I’ll bet he bakes bread from scratch, too

            I used to have his blog in my Reader.  Then, in one of my routine purges, I unsubscribed, on the logic that my limited blog-reading time should be spent on those reading mine.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

            No, I wasn’t jealous that his stories slide together without any of the awkward adhesive mine seem to need.  Of course, I was no at all envious of his wit that never advertises itself as funny.  It was not even remotely difficult for me to read writing so clearly superior to mine.  I’m just that big of a person.

            Then, he had to go and get himself on NPR.  I am not kidding you.  I was driving back from dropping off the boys, and an essay came on.  I missed the name at the start, but by the time I got to my driveway, I was so riveted that I let Lilah fuss in the backseat till it was over.

            Yes, people, it was he.  He had an essay on N-fucking-PR.

            The essay was about Recession Wear.  You can read all about it on his blog, where he describes it much more entertainingly than I do, but the gist of it is that he has been buying adult clothes as the Salvation Army and then using the fabric to sew dresses for his little girl.

            Yeah.  Just to clarify, he’s a stay-at-home-dad who in his spare time records essays on NPR and sews clothes for his kid.  And you wonder why I would stop reading his blog.

           Not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment.  I, too, have begun to switch over to buying used clothes whenever possible.  It started as an environmental move.  Around the corner from our house is a children’s used clothing store.  We walk there, select four pairs of pants for under $20, and walk home.  There is absolutely no cost to the planet, other than the price tags on the clothing, because I bring a canvas bag for my purchases.  I save money, I do not use any gas, no new crap gets produced for us, and, best of all, the clothes come already sewn.

           A few blocks in the other direction (thus confirming that pretty much anything one might need is a walk from my house) is a branch of the cleverly named Out of the Closet, a chain of L.A. thrift shops that raise money for AIDS charities.  I suppose I could start refurbishing adult clothes that I find there into kids’ frocks, but then I’d need both a sewing machine and the ability to sew.  No, I go there for my clothes.  Again, cheap, no environmental cost, and it raises money for charity.

          So, we’ve got our own version of Recession Wear around here, although I’ll admit it doesn’t look as good as the stuff on Mike’s daughter, nor is NPR likely to come calling anytime soon.            

          I just wish his blog weren’t so damned good.  I think I am going to have to add it back into my Reader.

At least they’re talking to each other

            My husband has been having a hard time motivating to exercise.  To be fair, he cannot go during the week, as he is away from home all week.  On the weekends, I fear I have enabled his gym-avoidance because I do not particularly want to be left alone with all three children for a few hours.  However, my parsimony won out over my sleep deprivation: if we’re paying for the damned gym, the man is going to use it.

            So it was that I sent him out the door at 6:45 on a Saturday morning to be waiting at the doors when his gym opened.  I figured he could get a good workout and still spend most of the morning wiping poopy bottoms.  My children had other plans and decided to poop as a team before he returned.

            Lilah was up first, feeding and pooping like the newborn she is.  Zachary got up second, tiptoeing out of his room at 7 so as not to wake his brother on the bottom bunk.  We are very strict about this requirement, but it is usually honored more in name than in practice by the boys who tend to rouse one another so as to get in as much fighting time as possible before starting their day.  I was pleased that Zach decided to show a little respect for his fast-asleep brother.

            “Where’s my Daddy?” he asked, a use of the possessive that always amuses me.  Does he really think he needs to clarify that he’s looking for his daddy?

            He looked sufficiently crestfallen when I told him his father had gone to the gym but would be back after breakfast, so I explained.  “Do you know why Daddy goes to the gym?”  Head shake.  “He goes to exercise so he can be healthy and live a long time.”  That is a project Zach can get behind, so he forgave me for my inability to produce a father on command.

            I fed him breakfast.  By the time we had both eaten, Lilah was ready to nurse again.  Tweedledee decided to play in the other room.  After about five minutes, he came running in, announcing “I need a poop! I need a poop!”

            “Well, then go make a poop.”  Armed with these instructions, he went into the bathroom, picked up a toy catalogue, and parked himself on the throne.  This is how it came to pass that Benjamin’s first sight upon stumbling out of his room was his brother perched on the crapper reading the F.A.O. Schwarz catalogue.  (If we ever unsubscribed from the toy catalogues, I fear the child would suffer chronic constipation.)

            Now, I carried both of those boys for almost nine months, had my abdomen sliced open to remove them, and sacrificed my perky bosom for their dining pleasure, so it will not surprise you that the first words out of his groggy little two-year-old mouth were: “Where’s Daddy?”

            “Daddy went to the gym,” Zach told him.

            “No,” Ben contradicted for the sake of disagreeing with his brother.  “Daddy’s in his room.”  Remember, I was sitting in a glider just out of sight, feeding the baby.  That didn’t matter, because no one cared where I had gone.

            “No,” Zach replied, thrilled to have a chance to argue and poop at the same time.  “Daddy went to the gym so he could exercise and live a long time.  So you can have a daddy forever.”

            “No!  Daddy’s in his bathroom, pooping and peeing on the potty.”  Deciding he had said the final word on the matter, Benjamin stomped off to the kitchen,  No one had asked where I was, so I didn’t feel the need to contribute until two minutes later, when Zachary came running in, sans pajama bottoms, and stuck his tushie at me. 

            “Look.  Did I wipe off all the poopy?”

            Five minutes later, after I had re-wiped the aforementioned bottom and gathered the quarter-roll of toilet paper that he had used without actually accomplishing anything and then left on the bathroom floor, J walked in.  Good thing, too, because Benjamin needed a diaper change.