Monthly Archives: June 2008

The feminists’ son

            Usually, I am into excessive narrative, but this conversation really requires no commentary.  It took place as I pushed three-and-three-quarters Zachary in the stroller home from the birthday party of a classmate.  Benjamin was home with a sitter, and I was starting to feel that third trimester creeping up on me.

Zach: It’s really hard being a boy.  I don’t want to be a boy and a man.  I want to be a girl or a woman.

Me: Why, sweetie?

Zach: I don’t want to have to work in an office.  I want to work at home.

Me (putting the break on the stroller and getting down to eye level): Zachary, lots of women work in offices.  E’s mother works in an office.

Zach: But you don’t.

Me: I used to.  We’re really lucky I can be home with you.

Zach: Was it before I was born?

Me: Yes, it was.  We’re really lucky that we can have me home working and with you and Benjamin.  But, baby, lots of mothers work.  C’s mother works in an office.

            Oh, sweet petunias, what are we teaching our boy?


Updated to add: He was referring, I think, to the non-Mommy work I do: the writing.  He simply sees that as easier or more pleasant.  But, I worry even more for what he seems to be inferring about the quality of his father’s life.  Does he seem that unhappy to him?

Imaginative play

            My in-laws have a window seat with cushions.  Benjamin discovered them on about his third day there visiting, and Zachary soon joined in, helping his brother toss them on the floor and then wrestling with him upon them.  On Saturday, we returned from the zoo, and the boys commenced chasing each other around the house while holding foot-and-a-half long, column-shaped pillows. 

            Periodically, Benjamin would trip, with his brother on top of him.  Usually, this experience occasions tears, but since he was falling on a substantial, cylindrical pillow, he laughed all the harder.  Finally, his father scooped him up and took him up to prepare for a nap.

            I remained downstairs, going into the kitchen to put away the lunch dishes.  From the next room, I could hear Zachary playing with his cylindrical cushion.  And, what was my sweet boy saying, as he demonstrated his ability to amuse himself with simple playthings rather than complex toys?

            “This is my p-nis.  This is my BIG p-nis.”

Salmonella be damned

            Normally, I ignore food scares.  Life is scary enough without running around purging my house of spinach every time three people in Idaho get ecoli.  The odds are so slim that I will get fisteria from a chicken that I continue on my merry way, smugly above the hysteria.

            But the latest scare over tomatoes and salmonella – well, that one seems big enough to actually pay some attention to.  I don’t have to worry about my children, since they think tomatoes are a Communist plot to poison them.  And I don’t have to worry about my husband, who has had such bad (and still undiagnosed) stomach problems for almost five months that he cannot eat any fruits or vegetables.  But, for once, I sort of have to worry about myself. 

            I love tomatoes.  I live for tomatoes.  And when I am pregnant, they rank just under peaches as the ideal food.  Suddenly, I am supposed to stop eating them?  What the hell will I eat in their place?  Chocolate is a poor substitute.

            And, then, I took a closer look.  There is a whole list of “safe” states, with tomatoes the FDA has deemed salmonella-free – 27 states to be exact.  And, on that list, you will find New Jersey and California.  Now, since I have never had a tomato worth the eating that was not grown in New Jersey or California, I am just not too concerned.  And, with all due respect to my newly adopted state, let’s be honest.  If a tomato ain’t grown in New Jersey, it’s really just taking up space.

How we know he’s my child

            I made the mistake of telling Zachary about the war.  I just wanted him to shut up about turning off NPR long enough to hear what the President was saying.  So, I explained that a man named George Bush is our President and he had started a war and I wanted to hear why it was still happening.  I had to explain that the war was because he was angry at some people in a place called Iraq, which let to myriad discussions about why he might be so angry at the Iraqis. 

            Big mistake.

            Now, we seem to have very regular discussions about wars and politics, which would not be so bad if the other half of the conversation were not three-and-three-quarters.  Passing an Obama sign in our new neighborhood, I explained how the President was elected by all the people in the United States – so that grown-ups living in Washington like Grandma and Grandpa or in Boston like T or in Philadelphia like A or in Fresno like our cousin or in Los Angeles like us all wrote down who they wanted to be in charge of the whole country and then someone counted and the person that the most grown-ups wrote down gets to be President.

            I figured we’re a little young to grasp the Electoral College.

            “So the man in the house wants to be President?” he asked of another house with an Obama sign.

            “No, honey.  He put up that sign to tell people that he thinks a man named Barak Obama would be a good President.  He thinks that he is really smart and really nice.”

            “But,” Zach replied, “He isn’t nice.”

            Fearing I was raising another Alex P. Keaton, I said, “He is very nice.”

            “But, Mommy, why is he angry?”  Ahhhh… so that’s it.  We were returning to the war and the current President. 

            “Sweetie, George Bush is President right now and he started the war.  Barak Obama wants to be President.  He didn’t start it.”

            And, so it goes, on and on, between conversations about trains and pink and school, we talk about the war and elections, which is preferable to some other questions I have gotten lately about my  family of origin and how babies get in bellies (a post for another time).

            Here in D.C., the grandparents have set up an art table for use by their various grandchildren.  Zach is eagerly making use of the materials, and he made a book for his grandmother.  “This is a book about how to stop wars,” he told her.  Since my mother-in-law is of the opinion that all guns should be melted down, she was more than happy to take any book on the topic.

            Later in the day, I was getting him out of the car.  “Mommy,” he said, “why do Presidents have to have wars?”

            “They don’t, Zachary.  It is the President’s job to make sure we don’t have a war.”

“I am going to write lots of books about how we can compromise to stop wars,” he informed me.  He is just not a big fan of guns.

            “That’s wonderful baby.  Maybe you can be President some day and make sure we don’t have any more wars.”

            No, Mommy.  I just want to read books about how to stop wars.”  Wonderful.  One more academic in the family. 

My Stepford Children

            We have what I like to term “Stepford Moments.”  These are moments during which, despite the fact that our children are fully capable of inflicting no end of torment upon us, they somehow behave as though their crazy little selves have been replaced by perfect little robots.  We had one such experience a month ago when we were out to breakfast with a long-time friend of their grandparents who lives in L.A.  She had never met the boys, and we had not seen her in years.  The boys were in a foul mood all morning.  Then, we stepped into the restaurant, the clouds parted, angels sang, and their halos began to glow.  The sat politely, ate (relatively) neatly, and quietly played with the toys she had brought them.  90 minutes later, after we said goodbye, the grey clouds descended once more, and the boys returned to their previously scheduled foul moods for the remainder of the day.

            A Stepford Moment.

            Today, I was granted a seven-hour Stepford Moment.  From the minute J left us at security to the instant Zachary ran to his grandfather’s arms all the way across the country, my kids behaved far better than they ever have before.  It helped that I had them run races for ½ hour before the flight.  And the pantry of snacks did not hurt either.  Nor did the fact that my computer battery held out till the pilot told Zachary it was time to turn off all mechanical devices for our descent to Dulles.  This meant that the one who actually likes television watched it for the entire flight.  But that is only a partial explanation of absurdly good behavior.

            Even Benjamin, who is manic when he is tired, only went insane for about ½ hour before I got him to take a short nap in my arms.  He did enjoy getting the man across the aisle to pick up endless dropped toys, and I sincerely hope that against all odds that man reads my blog, because I really, really want to thank him.

            While we’re giving shout-outs, how about one for the lady who let Zach pee before her and the security woman who entertained one child while I put on the other’s shoes?

            As we pulled up to the gate, I told the boys how impressed I was with their behavior.  I also told them they only had to hold it together for about 20 more minutes and that they were welcome to go insane once they were with their grandfather.

            My kids were so well-behaved (in contrast to children of the same ages in the row in front of us), that several different people stopped me as we got off the flight and told me how good the boys had been.  I could only respond, “I know.  I have no idea why.  Please don’t take it as a reflection on my parenting skills.”

            It was a Stepford Moment, the whole damned day.  It was still one of the most exhausting days I have had in my adult life.

Bits and bobs

Hi, folks.  I won’t be posting or reading for a few days or longer.  Off on that trip to D.C., now that Benjamin’s antibiotics have kicked in.  But, a few updates:

— The unpacking is going as well as can be expected.  

— The boys love the house.

— The new neighbors seem very nice.  The ones across the street even invited us over for a lunch in honor of a rather minor Jewish holiday today.  The boys and I came late, due to a playdate, and I realized my error as I headed to the backyard where the gathering was.  There, playing near the little fountain, was a child about Zachary’s age, fully outfitted in yarmulke and fringe.  The men gathered around the table all had their heads covered, and the women were all in skirts covering their knees.  Me?  I was in maternity shorts.  Graciously, no one said a word, and the kids played together without any idea something was different.  Awkwardly, I left as soon as possible, fearing my bare legs were creating havoc with their religious sensibilities.

— Later this evening, I found Zach hanging Mardi Gras beads from his shorts’ waistband, a grotesque version of fringe if ever there was one.

— Thank you to all for the bunk bed ideas.  Unfortunately, given allergies, sheets must be changed regularly, and we have to use sheets.  Due to wetting through the pull-up, it often happens when my husband is not here (which lately is all the fucking time).  My mother-in-law, my most faithful blog reader, told me tonight that the sheet-dilemma is PRECISELY why no one ever slept on the top bunk of those beds.

— You need to go HERE and buy one of these t-shirts, inspired in part by my posts on boys and pink.  You know I am getting one of each.

Please don’t worry if I am absent from my blog or yours for as much as a week.  I’ll be back.


            When J was a child, he and his brother did not share a room.  Nonetheless, J needed bunk beds.  The bottom was for him; the top was for his massive stuffed-animal collection.

            The beds were part of a set – desk, dresser, and bookcase – that we inherited several years ago when we bought our first house.  The dresser became mine, the lower bunk and desk eventually became our au pair’s, and the bookcase was quickly over-populated by my insatiable need for books.  The top bunk remained in my in-laws’ house until such time as we would need it.

            That time has arrived.  A month ago, Benjamin made it quite clear that he was having none of this crib nonsense.  He wanted to be free like the wind or somesuch horseshit.  He would scream the moment he awakened, driven to fury because he was unable to get out of bed.  Since our toddler bed was in storage awaiting a house, we had the temporary housing peeps bring in a twin, and so the transition was made.

            Now, however, there is no space for two twin beds in our boys’ new room, and they were pretty stoked to realize they could have something called “bunk beds.”  We moved the whole set, sans bookshelf for Benjamin to topple on his pretty little head, into their new room.  It is understating the case to call this furniture sturdy.  I am pretty sure it was designed to survive all forms of natural disasters and several man-made ones.  It is solid, it is indestructible, and it is heavy as hell.

            It softens something hard in me to know my boys are using the same furniture their father used, and not just because I like the environmental aspect of it.  While J laments the things he carved into his childhood desk, I love that Zachary is sitting and making his books at his father’s desk, writing on top of his Daddy’s writing.  He escorts our guests into his new room, explaining, “My Daddy used to sleep in the bed, but now I do.”

            There is no end to the giggling and climbing that seem to go hand-in-hand with a bunk bed ladder, although the younger child can only get up, not down.  We make sure to supervise when he climbs up to Zach’s level.  There they are, our boys, stacked on top of each other, cozy in their Daddy’s childhood bedroom. 

            It is heartwarming and all that is sentimental.  It is also, I realized as I struggled to get sheets on that top bunk, probably going to kill me.  How the fuck does one make up a top bunk?  Is it like bad sex, mostly accomplished through sweating and grunting?  Is there a special trick I have yet to learn?  And how will I do it when I am eight months pregnant?  I can barely get up the ladder to kiss him goodnight as it is.

            Please, someone tell me, how do I put a fitted sheet on the bed when I have to climb onto the mattress in order to reach the corners?  And, remember, I am getting heavier with every passing week.