Monthly Archives: January 2009

Because sometimes writing comes on paper with a binding

Kate asked if we are library members, and indeed we are.  I hadn’t been for awhile, and I surely never get a chance to browse for my own books.  So the other day when Hurricane Benjamin was at a play date under the care of our nanny, I took the calmer children to the library. Zachary got time in the children’s section and then graciously allowed me three minutes to look for some books of my own.  As we walked through the stacks and I grabbed a few things that looked appealing.  “Mommy, you want the hat book,” Zach suggested, pointing to a book that I had missed because it was down where only a four-year-old would see it.  Indeed, there was a picture of a hat on the spine.

So, if I am not around your blogs or posting here for a few days, you’ll know where to find me.  I am reading the hat book.

Hump day


            Wednesdays are rough.  On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, I have a nanny here all afternoon and evening.  On Fridays, Daddy is home for supper.  But, Wednesdays, they can be very long days.  By the time I get Benjamin down for his nap, Lilah is screaming.  Then I nurse her while Zachary entertains himself.  Often, while I sit with her, I hear him trot into the bathroom, put on his little seat, grab a toy catalog, and sit down on the porcelain throne.  Eventually, I hear too much toilet paper being ripped off, the flush, and then Zach singing “happy Birthday” twice while he washes his hands.

            By the time I eat lunch, empty the boys’ lunch boxes, and close my eyes for fifteen minutes, it’s almost time to get Benjamin up, and Zach and I have only read a few books together.  And then it’s snack time, and Lilah needs to get up so we can go to karate, where somehow I am supposed to entertain the little ones in the tiny waiting area, and then home where I try to feed her whilst the boys pull out every last toy that we own, and finally I give up turn on the Tinkerbell movie and order a pizza for dinner.

            Don’t even ask about bathtime.

            Yesterday was especially rough, as J had taken the morning off so we could meet with Benjamin’s teachers to discuss his, ahem, spiritedness.  We were late because traffic was backed up to our front door.  The 405 was running smoothly, as we could see from the surface streets where we were sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, unable to actually access the highway.  And, then traffic was brutal getting back to our neighborhood, where we were scheduled to visit the local elementary school to decide if our little guy is ready for kindergarten next year.  And Lilah thinks her car seat is some sort of Medieval torture device, causing her to scream mercilessly in that thing, so eventually we pulled over so I could nurse her.

            Don’t even ask about traffic getting back to the preschool for the noon pickup.

            And pickup was funky because the parking lot was jammed with cars due to the Chinese New Year party the Synagogue Sisterhood was hosting.  No, I don’t know why.   And more traffic getting home, with Zachary whining about the windows and Benjamin threatening to fall asleep and Lilah screaming some more.

            Some kid had been going the wrong way on the 10 Freeway, it seems, and he had plowed into a cop on his way to work at 5 AM.  They had a spectacular crash that snarled L.A. traffic pretty much all morning.

            It also killed both men.

            When we got home, I was relieved to be out of the car and start getting Benjamin down for his nap.  But, mostly, I was relieved I was not one of those mothers or the officer’s wife.

            And then there was the small plane crash in Santa Monica yesterday that killed two people.  Plus the dude who shot his whole family earlier in the week.  It’s a damned good thing that a woman just had octuplets, because the population of Los Angeles has taken a real hit this week.

Little man

            Even though they gave him the smallest size, we could probably fit an entire other child in Zachary’s karate uniform.  He is petite for a four-year-old.  So, we roll the bottoms, we roll the tops, and the sensei wraps that belt around his waist several times, pulling in all the extra fabric on his jacket.  But, despite his stature, for a half-hour on Mondays, Zachary walks taller than I have ever seen him before.

            The first two lessons, he felt awkward, unsure of how to relate to a male teacher and insecure about using his body this way.  The words were uncomfortable for him.  As a result, he was disrespectful and silly.  It was frustrating for me, because we had paid in advance; it was frustrating for his sensei; and it was frustrating for Zach, who wanted to be good but was protecting himself by intentionally mispronouncing the words.

            When you have a highly sensitive child, you get used to worrying about social situations and new experiences.  You cannot protect that child, so you are grateful for every talented teacher who comes down the pike.  Zachary has been fortunate to have had gifted preschool teachers, both in London and here in Los Angeles. 

            And he has one again in Sensei Kirk.  He is the right blend of humor and business, allowing Zach to be silly but keeping him serious about learning.  Martial arts studios are denizens of earnest geeks, men and women who take pride in their sport and the rituals that surround it.  Our dojo is no exception.  It is a world unto itself, and, while karate may have little social capital in the larger world, those who have immersed themselves in this life are cool within their own microcosm. 

            It is all one could ask for one’s child.

            The focus is learning respect.  Respect for the teacher, respect for the art, and respect for one’s ability and body.  Hard work and obedience are rewarded.  And all Zach wants is the reward of his sensei’s opprobrium.  As soon as he starts to slip, Sensei Kirk brings him back, reminding him that he will not get a little plastic ninja if he does not take his lesson seriously.  And the child wants that ninja.

            On Wednesdays, we go to group lessons, and Zach refuses to participate.  He is shy and nervous about this strange group of kids, and Sensei Sam is slowly moving him into the room.  But, on Mondays, Zach is focused as he practices half-moons and blocks.  He remembers everything from the previous lesson and tries hard to learn what Sensei Kirk is teaching.

            At the end of every lesson, Zach kneels again with his sensei.  His body looks so small and serious bent over there on the floor.  But what he is learning will make his back straighter.

Clearly, I do not wear dresses very often

            We went to a wedding on Saturday, which is astonishing given that we have missed something like a dozen weddings in the last five years due to pregnancy and small children.  But, it was an afternoon wedding that welcomed children.  So, we packed all three kids in the car and drove them out to spend an hour sitting angelically in a full Mass and then three hours being utterly charming in a loud crowd of people.

            Or, because we are not completely crazy, we got a sitter for the boys and just brought the baby, who can be shut up with a well-placed nipple in her mouth.  I had a whole five minutes to get ready for the event, donning a lovely dress I bought at one of Santa Monica’s designer consignment shops, with Spanx underneath to diminish my bulging and rolling.  I did put on a few sparkly things and a pair of strappy shoes, and then I came out to say goodbye to the boys.

            Benjamin looked up from whatever he was destroying on the kitchen floor and let loose with a wide, enchanted smile.  “Mommy,” he enthused, “you princess!”

            And that is why, on Sunday, I responded to posting by a local woman who was selling a used Tinkerbell costume in just his size.  Because flattery will get you everywhere.

Challenge week eight: New Math

            I’m sure you’re wondering what I weigh this fine morning.  I’m wondering that, myself.

            Last night, Lilah slept for more than eleven straight hours, for which we are considering sponsoring a tri-state parade in her honor.  Shortly after hour ten, I staggered into the bathroom, engorged with my gluttony of sleep.  I weighed myself as breastmilk sprayed all over the bathroom.  Then I rushed out to assemble the hand pump.

            J got ready for the gym while all three of the children remained asleep, even though the sun was shining.  “I’m up 1.7 pounds from where I started,” I told him.  “That’s almost 3 pounds from last week.  Of course, I’m about to pump some of it off.”

            “Well, you have to weigh yourself after you’ve pumped,” was his rejoinder.  (I think the English language needs a verb for a reply made in the tone of voice that implies “duh.”  “Snipped” implies something nasty and “scoffed” is more derogatory than this mock-insulting reply really was.)  So, I pumped six ounces and weighed myself again, only to find I was an entire pound lighter. 

            Now, I know I was an English major in college, but I am not so bad at math.  Last I checked, there are 16 ounces in a pound.  Anyone know how pumping six ounces made me lose an entire pound?

            It also begs the question of my actual weight, since I was carting a couple of feedings around in my boobs this morning.  Do I subtract for the additional eight ounces of milk?  And how much do I subtract? 

            I think maybe we should just say I had two good workouts at the Y and call it a week.

The sassy meme

Lola, the sassiest of mamas, sent me the following interview questions.  If you want me to interview you for your blog, just leave me a comment.

1:  If you could say anything you wanted to say to George Bush, what would you say?

          Go on now go, Walk out the door. Don’t turn around now, ‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore

2:  If you had to be the mother of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, who would you choose and why?

           Now, see, this one is embarrassing.  I am woefully out of touch with popular culture.  I know that Spears drove with her kid out of a car seat and shaved her head.  I know that Lohan is an actor. Or maybe a singer.  Or maybe the checkout girl at Target.

3:  You get to be Queen for a day.  The kids are all taken care of, and you can spend as much money as you want.  What do you do all day?

          Excellent.  So, I’d need false eyelashes, probably a set of falsies, and a sequined dress.

          Oh, I just re-read the question. You said “Queen,” not “a queen.”  Well, that’s a letdown.

4:  Is there a song that brings tears to your eyes every time you hear it?  If so, which one?

          No, I’m not the sentimental type.  But cutting onions gets me every time.

5:  A fairy taps you on the shoulder and tells you that you can either have a perfect face or a perfect body for the rest of your life.  Which do you choose?

          I’m afraid that would be a hell of a lot of work, even for a fairy.  I’d settle for no more zits and thicker hair.

My choice

            Twice so far this week I have had to call another parent to apologize for the dental imprint Benjamin left behind in his attempt to eat his classmate.  And it’s only Thursday.  I do not know what to do with a child who thinks it is funny to slam doors in people’s faces and spends the majority of his day trying to devise new and ingenious ways to get the adults to say “no.”  Last night, as the boy lay on his bedroom floor naked and wailed, J looked at me and said, “maybe this is what the terrible twos look like with him.”

            You think?

            Not that four is all that fantastic, let me tell you.  Zachary ranges from cruel with his brother to bratty with his mother to angelic with his teachers to shy with his karate instructor.  But, mostly I get to see the cruel and the bratty. 

            It would all be a little easier to take if I had gotten perhaps one complete night of sleep in the last four months.  Lilah is a delightful baby, really she is, but would it kill her to sleep through the night every couple of weeks?  (edited to add: I wrote this yesterday, so of course last night she finally did.  Nine-and-a-half straight hours.)

            I have a husband who makes a solid living and is devoted to time with his kids.  I have a wonderful preschool to bring my kids to.  I have a part-time nanny.  All told, I am only alone with all three kids about a third of the time.  And I wanted children.  We planned the first two, and the third was a welcome but unplanned surprise.  We wanted kids so badly that we got a little help along the way.  I am raising kids in the best possible circumstances, a fact that does almost nothing to mitigate my thrice-daily urge to climb into the linen closet and hide under the chaos of unfolded towels.

            I cannot imagine how much worse it would be if I had not desired these children.  If I had been forced to bear them instead of choosing it.  If I was doing it on my own or without support or in poverty or as a teenager.  Or any of a million other scenarios.  Like in a country that does not counsel abortion as an option because it fears losing US aid. 

            On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I ask my brand-spanking-new President to protect children everywhere by allowing women to choose whether or not to bear them.  It is in no child’s best interest to be born to a woman who is not ready to either raise him or put him up for adoption.  I Blog for Choice because I know how freaking frustrating kids can be. 

            No one should be forced to face a two-year-old each morning.  That just has to be a choice.

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.