Monthly Archives: January 2009

Where we were

            We were all buckled into the car by 8:30 yesterday morning, pulling out of the driveway to the sound of NPR’s coverage of the inauguration.  My plan was to listen on the drive to school and then hope there was a radio playing at the preschool.  If not, I was prepared to keep all the kids in the car to listen for as long as it took.  I didn’t have a concrete plan for how to keep a two-year-old, a four-year-old and an infant content listening to NPR right outside their preschool for a half an hour.  I figured I’d play that one by ear.

            Benjamin was delighted as the band struck up, as he had been informed there would be no music on this morning’s drive.  We sped along the 405, which was surprisingly empty for that time of day.  I got off at Sunset, stopping for a light behind several cars at the top of the ramp.  I began to cry as Biden was announced, so relieved was I that the Bush era was about to end.  When the light turned, I pulled forward.

            And that’s when I saw him.  Standing between the two lanes of traffic, holding his sign: “Hungry.”  He hasn’t been there for a few weeks, and so I have stopped bringing food for him.  I did have a pear in the car, and I wanted to give it to him.  He likes pears.  He used to have them growing in his yard when he was a child.  But, by the time I saw him, I was already pulling past him, unable to stop without causing an accident.

            And so, I pulled on past, listening to the sound of change on my radio.  We drove into the preschool parking lot at 8:50.  The director was just at the gate, and before I turned off the car, I asked her if there was a radio going inside.

            “We have a TV set up,” she replied.  I hustled Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and Tweedledette out of the car and into the lobby, where, for the next 15 minutes, parents, children, and teachers began to collect.  And that’s where I was at the historic moment – a boy on each knee and a baby strapped to my chest, crying on the floor on the preschool.  Right where I needed to be.

            Of course, one mother bitched about it.  She was unhappy that she had not been informed in advance that the inauguration would be playing.  “It’s for the parents, not the kids,” she snipped.  Maybe her kid had no idea what was going on, but Zach sure knew.  We’re one of those hippy-dippy houses where we talk about things going on in the world.  To counteract little Miss Self Involved, I thanked the director for giving me a chance to have this experience with my children.

            And out on the freeway ramp, there was a man who once grew up with a pear tree in his yard.

Yertle and McDreamy

            “Is Georges Bush still the leader of the kingdom?” Zachary asked me last week.

            “He is, baby, but only for another week,” I replied, thinking smugly about how Yertle the Turtle ended up, turtle head deep in the mud and feet flailing about in the air as he fell from his perch of egotism and stupidity.

            Not long after, Zach asked another question.  “Why do we pick a new President?  Why does Georges Bush stop being President?”

            “Well, they have to take turns.  George Bush’s turn is over, and so we picked Barack Obama to do it next.”

            “I’m glad that Mr. Pain is not going to be President,” he went on.  “I’m glad they picked the smartest one.”

            “I’m glad John McCain isn’t going to be President, too,” I told him.  And I am.  I am glad that we picked a man who shares my values, a man I can trust.  I am relieved we chose a man who is smarter than I am, because I am pretty damned sure that I have no idea how to fix the problems we now face.

            You know, things like a collapsing economy.  Or, is it already collapsed?  I haven’t the faintest of clues how to prop it up again, and I am only too happy to put my trust in someone else.

            Plus, there is a bit of political upheaval going on.  Nowadays, you can’t throw a dart at a map of the Middle East without hitting a war of some sort.  I have no idea what can be done to resolve conflicts going back thousands of years, violence based in ethnic hatred and modern economic disparities, and I am mighty glad it is not my job to figure it out.

            Oh, and there are all those melting ice caps, plus two continent-sized flotillas of plastic out in the middle of the ocean.  I’m pretty content that I am not in charge of thinking about those things, too.

            In a few hours, Barack Obama will become President, right about the time I drop the boys at preschool.  Zach and I will stop and look at the clock, and we will note the exact moment that George W. gets smacked in the ass by the door.  He has left behind a colossal disaster, and I can only imagine how Obama must feel stepping right into an Oval Office knee-deep in offal.  People have awfully high hopes that he will be able to fix the economy, end the war(s), and stop global warming.  Theses are rough times for becoming the most powerful man in the world, and he must have a serious case of First-Day Jitters.

            I’ll leave the boys at preschool, relieved that they are someone else’s problem for a few hours, but before long I will have to come back and get them.  We can only hand the tough jobs over to someone else for so long.  The fact is that a good leader of the kingdom does not perch, Yertle-like, on our shoulders, looking out over his domain.  A true leader guides us in our work of cleaning up the mud that we would all rather ignore around our feet.

            So, welcome to President McDreamy.  I’m so very glad it’s your turn.

A bitchy thing to post

Well, everyone else is posting meaningful things about MLK, but I like to buck the system.  So, instead, I give you a picture from where we went this weekend.  Enjoy it from under the sweaters and blankets.

beach-pic

Challenge week seven: the good, the bad, and the dumpy

            The good thing about joining the Y is that I got to work out one day this week.  Unfortunately, Lilah only made it 20 minutes before summoning me back to the childcare room, where she followed in her brothers’ footsteps by nursing around an unhooked jog bra.  I did my best not to drip sweat on her and wondered, as I had for the other two children, whether she noticed that her meal was a bit saltier than usual.  After she finished, I gave her back to the childminders and dashed back to the locker room for a shower, whereupon I discovered the bad thing about joining the Y.

            Three-quarter length mirrors.

            We do not have a full-length mirror at home, so I had heretofore been spared a view of what my midsection has become.  Also, I am usually accessorizing with a baby worn right over my belly.  Standing there, naked, in the YMCA locker room, I came face-to-face with reality: I am not longer a hottie.  Shit, right now I don’t even qualify as a lukewarmie.

            I’m damned lucky that I am married, because there is no way I’d let some stranger see me from just below my breasts to just above my knees.  If my husband were ever to leave me, I’d need to only date men who are into ankles.  Because those are looking fine.

             On the bright side, I’m down a pound.

My little fairy

            Benjamin is the type of two-year-old that causes middle-aged women on the street to chuckle and muse, “He’s all boy, isn’t he?”  He is a Mack truck of a child, built like a brick shithouse.  He is 40th percentile for weight because he is all solid muscle, but he is the 75th for height and the 90th for head circumference.  That boy has a massive head, much to the regret of those of us in his path when he sees fit to use it as a battering ram.  His features are giant, too, and the tears that roll out of his eyes are huge balls of water.  That’s his mouth up there on the banner, stretched out in all its cave-like glory.

            All that masculinity has made him feel no shame in expressing his feminine side, as evidenced by the scene in my house on Halloween.  I waited to put on the boys’ costumes till three minutes before we went out because I did not want them to get all anticipatey and wonky on me.  Zach had insisted he would be Woody from Toy Story, which caused me to silently cast evil spells towards the relative who had given us that book among a stack of hand-me-downs.  Benjamin, on the other hand, was simply going to be wearing the cow costume Zach had worn the year before.  What the hell did he care?

            A lot, apparently.  As I pulled out the cow and began to dress him, he looked at me with those enormous eyes pulled wide for effect.  “I wanna be Tinkerbale.” 

            Now, much as I would have paid money to see this particular child in a fairy costume, I did not have a Tinkerbell costume handy.  In fact, this was the first inkling I got that he even knew who Peter Pan’s sidekick is.  We had never even discussed her before, and now he was crestfallen because he had his little heart set on being her for Halloween.

            The Tinkerbell thing, as we have come to call it, snowballed from there.  Conveniently, this was exactly the same time that Los Angeles suddenly became plastered with that smirking green fairy on every other billboard, so the simple act of walking to the pharmacy was suddenly the chance for a celebrity sighting.  “Look!  Look!  It’s Tinkerbale!”

            By the time Hanukkah rolled around, I was determined to find the boy a little Tinkerbell figurine.  Unfortunately, Disney had not seen fit to stock its stores with anything so simple.  All the fairy paraphernalia was considerably more elaborate than the two-inch plastic goddess I was picturing.  Normally, I am not one for buying a lot of crap, but I knew full-well that this toy would be the highlight of his holiday.  If I could find it.

            As luck would have it, we went to Disneyland one morning just before Hanukkah.  The folks at Disney had set up a spot known as “Pixie Hollow” for all things green fairy related.  And there, in the obligatory shop, I hit paydirt.  The perfect little plastic girly for my all-boy.

            He also got to meet his idol in the flesh, at which point he became so star-struck he was unable to speak.  No matter, a few days later, he got his Tinkerbell figurine, which he proceeded to take to bed with him every night.

            Finally, my husband gave in.  He could not resist any longer and bought the brand new Tinkerbell DVD.  Really, dude?  We needed a DVD?  The kids are supposed to be limited to one 20 minute show a night, yet sometimes it feels like J does a lot of eroding of that rule on the weekends.  I have made my (rather convincing) case that, if we are going to allow extra TV, it should be on weekdays when I need the boys still so I can feed the baby.  So, the DVD has stayed in its box for weeks, much to the relief of Zachary, who suspected that Captain Hook might be lurking somewhere within.

            And then, it was Wednesday.  Our nanny is off Wednesdays.  J would not be home before the children were in bed.  And I desperately needed time for Lilah’s usual evening cluster-feeding.  It was time to pull out the big guns.

            I turned on Tinkerbell.

            The boys watched for a half-hour before dinner while their sister nursed.  Then I turned it off, promising more after we ate.  No sooner had I turned around then Benjamin was at the DVD player, pulling out the DVD and staring at it, hoping to elicit more Tinkerbell through some sort of hypnosis.  After we had eaten, I put it back in and disappeared to feed Lilah.

            Just as she was nearing the end of her feeding, I heard sobbing coming from the living room.  Benjamin sounded terrified, and I was silently cursing the friend who promised there was nothing scary in the film as I delatched the baby and went running in.  Oh, there was something scary on the screen, all right.

            The credits.

            Benjamin was disconsolate, so it took awhile for him to get coherent words out, but eventually they came.  “I want another one!” he sobbed, man-sized tears running down his face.

Suggestions

To my children;

Yesterday was a long day.  Given that today has the potential to be even longer, I would like to propose the following guidelines for your behavior:

1) Breakfast will be a considerably smoother experience if we can forgo a half-hour temper tantrum during which one of you insists that he is too far away from the table but refuses to allow me to push in his chair.  I would like to take this opportunity to remind you both that you are not allowed to simply grab the table and pull it towards you while your brother attempts to eat his breakfast, only to have it yanked out from under him.

2) During preschool drop-off, I would prefer if no one turns around while getting out of the mini-van and shoves his brother, thereby forcing me to send the pushee into the courtyard with our Rabbi while the pusher is disciplined.

3) Ideally, no one will decide – just as he gets to his classroom – that he is not going to school today.  It would be even dandier if no one starts sobbing as I leave the room.

4) If we can, let’s avoid urinating on the bathroom floor.

5) Toy plastic brooms are cleaning implements, not weapons.

6) Contrary to popular opinion, macaroni and cheese does NOT taste better when eaten from a standing position.

7) Appropriate dinner conversation does not include climbing under the table and declaring “I going to keep my poopy right here in my diaper.”  

8) While baby poop does not smell bad, baby pee is just as wet as any other.  Let’s try not to get it all over Mommy as she carries you to the bathtub.

9) When two of you are finally shoved tucked away in your beds, copious weeping for Mommy to return accompanied by gleeful taunting from the lower bunk is likely to disturb your sister’s attempts to finish feeding for the night, in all probability resulting in her waking Mommy up in the middle of the night to finish off the meal.

Of course, I recognize that the above are merely suggestions for possible ways to go about your day.  If you see fit to ad lib, perhaps by mixing Mommy a cocktail shutting the hell up for ten straight minutes baking Mommy cookies, please feel free to do so.

Signed,

The shell of a woman formerly known as your mother

The holy land

           For years, it has been fashionable to see Israel as a big bully picking on the poor, defenseless Palestinians.  This line of reasoning has the Israelis brutalizing civilians for the fun of it, while the Palestinians just want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

            I understand this mindset.  Those pictures are awfully dramatic, and no one likes to see dead children.  Including Israelis, I might add, who have been dropping leaflets in advance so civilians will know where they are going to bomb.  I think it is ridiculous to discuss a proportionate response.  If the Canadian government supported the bombing of the U.S. and the Canadian people were hiding the bombers in their midst, no one in the U.S. would be all that concerned about a proportionate response.  Israel is not just picking on the weak for the hell of it; the Israelis are legitimately threatened.

            Of course, there are people on the other side of the fence in whose eyes Israel can do no wrong.  This line of reasoning has the uber-civilized Israelis patiently tolerating the savages in their midst who irrationally lob bombs over the border.

            I understand this mindset.  As an American Jew, I get awfully nervous about criticizing the Israelis.  People may say the Holocaust has nothing to do with this, but it does.  The bare fact is that – in living memory – a government mobilized to effect worldwide Jewish extermination, and most other nations did not want to take in the fleeing Jews.  To Jews, Israel is insurance that the next time (and it is a question of when, not if) there will be someplace to go.  The Israelis are on the front lines, protecting a refuge I may need someday, and so I find it hard to criticize.

            But, the fact remains that the Palestinians are being blockaded.  They cannot get the goods they need.  On the other hand, Israel is trying to keep them from getting arms.  On the other hand, the pullout left the Palestinians stranded.  On the other hand, Israel has stopped occupying Gaza as requested.  On the other hand, they did so unilaterally.  On the other hand, the Palestinians would not negotiate.  On the other hand, Israel was occupying their land.  On the other hand, the Gaza Strip was being used to attack Israel.  On the other hand, Israel was formed on land containing Palestinians.

            And so on.  It goes on forever because (and I know people hate to admit it) both sides are right and both sides are wrong.  This is not a war about a few missile attacks.  It is a war about class.  The Palestinians are poor.  Very, very poor.  Contrary to popular opinion, this is not solely because of Israel.  These were the poorest of the Arab world, and they got left behind to form a nation that would conveniently stick in Israel’s side.  They make excellent propaganda tools, and it is disgusting how people love to cloak their animosity towards Israel in sympathy for the Palestinians.  Make no mistake: Israel is surrounded by wealthy Arab countries that use the poorest people – the Palestinians – to do the dirty work of fighting Israel and making it look bad.

            My heart breaks for the Palestinians.  It really does.  But the answer is not for Israel to sit back and allow itself to be attacked.  There are too many people who would love to see it destroyed.  Don’t bother trying to tell me that feelings towards Israel have nothing to do with feelings towards Jews.  That’s as much hogwash as trying to say that the animosity Israelis feel for Palestinians is free of bigotry.  And I think it is safe to say Israelis on the whole bear not much love towards the Palestinians.

            There are no two groups it is easier to hate than Arabs and Jews, which makes it mighty convenient that they are duking it out over a crappy piece of arid land.  No matter which side a person picks, those stereotypes and prejudices play a part.  Until we acknowledge the ethnic prejudices and economic facts driving this problem, no progress can be made.

            And the Palestinians will keep dying.

——

Feel free to comment with what I am sure will be strong opinions.  But if people start getting nasty, I will close comments.  It was very hard to write this, and the reason I haven’t been posting much is because I needed to figure out how to say this.  Disagree with me and one another, but do it respectfully.