Monthly Archives: January 2009

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.


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.


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.

Delurking day

Apparently, it is delurking day.  That means all of you who read but never comment.  C’mon.  You know you wanna.


Challenge week 6: Same as it ever was

            Well, the running thing was a bust, but that doesn’t let me off the hook for exercising.  The shame of it is that I love to run and like to swim and enjoy walking but find all other exercise unpleasant at best.  I thought about joining J’s gym, but it is unbelievably expensive, probably sue to the fantastic pool and state-of-the-art equipment, not to mention 972 channels on TV.

            The boys go to the gym for private swim lessons, which cost more than we spend on produce and diapers in a week.  We’ve been wanting to end those lessons, but first we wanted to get Zachary through some of his, shall we say, “hesitation” about putting his face in the water.  We have come to realize that we could spend the next eight years doing private lessons without him becoming suddenly amenable to dunking his head, and by that point we’d have spent his college savings and lost the house to foreclosure.  Benjamin, meanwhile, leaps into the water and swims straight through to the instructor, so we’re thinking he is probably ready for a group class.

            Unfortunately, finding a group class is not all that easy. Around here, people seem to have pools, and they have private instructors who come and teach their kids in the aforementioned pools.  See above comment about the cost of private lessons.  So, I was grateful when our teenaged babysitter mentioned that she had taken lessons at the YMCA as a kid.

            And, would you believe it, that Y is pretty fucking nice.  The tour featured state-of-the-art equipment, squash courts, and a good pool.  Benjamin, of course, protested vociferously when we left the pool area.  “Please take me swimming class!  Please take me swimming class!” he screamed as we left for the rest of the tour. 

            We periodically check that child to see if he has gills.

            The best part is that our family membership includes a childcare room.  So, if there were, hypothetically, a stay-at-home mom with bad knees who needed a workout and wanted someone to watch the baby for an hour while the boys are at school, she could leave the aforementioned baby fast asleep in her bucket seat with the childcare peeps and go work out.  And, when that baby gets to be six months old, she can enter the mommy-and-me swim class, perhaps thereby avoiding the wet-face-phobia of her eldest brother.

            So, this week I’ll start working out at our fancy schmantzy Y.  J will transfer his workouts there in a few months, when he feels he is in enough of a routine to give up the 972 channels.  Benjamin isn’t old enough for the group lessons, which start at 3, but we’ll try to beg his way in.  And Zachary?  We’re going to start him in the swimming lessons next session.  Unfortunately, he needs a swim cap, and we fear he’s going to hate that feeling.  Can anyone recommend a swim cap that a four-year-old won’t reject?  Really – I could use some suggestions here.

            So, I still haven’t lost a pound, but we’ve found a way for me to get in shape and save a crapload of money at the same time.

            Do you think the baby will need a swim cap?  Because thus far she has no hair.


Sorry I haven’t been around your blogs much lately.  I was revising the book.  I’ll be around soon.

A love story

            We met at Chili’s.  I was a hotshot trainer, which is short for college-student-the-management-manipulates-extra-work-out-of-without-extra-pay, and there were a couple of new trainees naively wearing white for their first shift among the salsa and guacamole.  It took only a few shifts together for us to become inseparable; there’s nothing like pico de gallo under the fingernails to cement a relationship.

            That was almost 17 years ago.  Since then there have been degrees, graduations, apartments, houses, children, moves across countries and oceans.  We have become less self-conscious and more eco-conscious.  There are piles of discarded pretensions trailing in our wake.

            I am not talking about my husband.  My husband is wonderful, but he knows nothing about tampons, and there are times that just call for a best friend.  A girlfriend.  For years, I strongly suspected she was too good for me.  Now I know it, but it has ceased to matter.  I won’t tell her if you won’t.

            I miss the days when she lived four blocks away and I came over every Wednesday for Beverly Hills, 90210.  We worked together, studied together, and made stupid dating choices together.  We left Philly a year apart, but we ended up in D.C., still seeing each other almost weekly.  I miss knowing without even thinking about it that my in-case-of-disaster person was just at the other end of Rock Creek Park.

            We have not lived in the same place since 1999, when I left D.C. to go to graduate school.  That’s almost 10 years living apart, and yet we are a part of one another’s daily lives.  There have been trains and planes and emails.  And there have been phone bills.  Oh, my lord, have there been phone bills.  She is the reason we always spring for the reduced long-distance plan, because we talk almost every day.  Sometimes several times a day.

            Well, she must be missing those long-past Wednesday nights, because today she is getting off a plane and spending the weekend here with me.  She’s the kind of friend who leaves her own kids with her husband for the weekend and then offers to babysit my three kids so my husband and I can go out together.  But, there’s no way I’d squander any of the 48 hours I get with her. 

            Maybe we’ll go walk past Tori Spellings’s house for old time’s sake.

Doin’ it all for my babies

             In December, 2002, we visited friends in Madison because we’re the idiots who think winter is the ideal time to travel to Wisconsin.  One afternoon, we went to their local grocery to pick up a few supplies.  Our friend selected a small kiwi.

            “Now, I’m just curious,” J said.  “Why would you pay twice as much for that one?  This one is much bigger.”  The friend mumbled some hogwash about a commitment to buying organic.  J and I rolled our eyes at one another.  First everyone was low fat, then they were low carb, and now the organic thing.  Whatever.

            We weren’t even sure what organic meant.  Over the next two years, we began to learn and to shift our eating habits because it just seemed healthier to ingest only food with our food.  By the time Zachary was born in 2004, we were trying to buy organic when possible, and we were very careful with what he ate.

            After he was born, there was a fundamental shift in my world view.  And by that I actually mean my view of the world.  The planet.  Whereas once the earth was a cool place to hang out for 90 or so years, it suddenly became the place he was going to have to live.  And the place that would need to feed him, protect him, and provide a nifty little element commonly referred to as oxygen.  The place where my grandkids would be born.

            It was a planet choking from the fumes my car spat out, crowded with the trash I tossed, bedizened with bling I didn’t need, and seizing from the chemicals I put on my lawn or used to clean my clothes.  Suddenly, it seemed like a crappy piece of land to inherit.

            In these tough economic times, everyone is thinking twice before buying, but I have long been thinking thrice.  Not just do I want it and can we afford it, but can the planet support it?  My answer is most often “no.”

            J thinks I am a fanatic, but he more or less goes along with my environmentalism because he knows I believe so strongly in the importance of protecting our children’s life support system.  He does not necessarily disagree with me that if the human race doesn’t make some drastic changes, life could be pretty bleak for our kids.  And by bleak I mean civilization eroding while the strongest among us slaughter the weak in order to hoard the few remaining drops of clean water.  Read Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower if you want to get the shit scared out of you.

            J is a forest thinker.  Whereas I see concepts in terms of myriad trees, he thinks in larger terms.  And he just doesn’t think one family changing its ways is going to make a difference.  He wants laws changed in order to make everyone comply.  He doesn’t mind being inconvenienced for the greater good… as long as everyone else is, too.

            That is why Earth Justice is one of our two charities.  We don’t give to lots of different organizations because we’d spend forever researching.  With the exception of sponsoring friends in various walk/run/bike/dogsled-athons, we give to only two charities.  We also ask for and give donations in lieu of gifts.  Most people pick Save the Children of the two, but I honestly wonder what good it does to medicate and feed the kiddos if the planet is going to be uninhabitable by the time they hit menopause. 

            So, I’m happy to send Earth Justice another donation in honor of the Just Posts retiring.  I am long past the days when I would even consider buying any kind of kiwi in Madison in December, but Earth Justice is working to make everyone protect our world.  These are people who litigate on behalf of my planet, the place that is going to need to feed my grandchildren, and I’ll take any excuse to support them.  Because they are damned right: if anyone needs a good lawyer, it is the earth.

            (And Happy Birthday, Jacob.)

Where’s Ducky when you need him?

            I have a little confession to make: I was not the most popular girl in my high school.  I know this sets me apart among bloggers, most of whom ruled the school from their posts as Science Team captain or editor of the Literary Magazine.  I, however, tended to be somewhat socially awkward, which was a perfect complement to my outgoingness and non-conformity.  Molly Ringwald had those legs going for her, but otherwise I was a candidate for Pretty in Pink.

            Perhaps it is the lingering memory of that discomfort that has kept me from meeting any bloggers in person.  I know you like my writing, but what if you don’t like me?  What if it’s just like it was with Blaine and you ditch me for a snooty blonde?

            However, the time has come.  I have found my courage.  Today, while the boys are in preschool, I am going to meet my very first blogger IRL for coffee.  I figure that since she lives five minutes from where the boys go to school, we should give it a shot.  Of course, Governor Schwarzenegger lives nearby, too, but we didn’t invite him along.  We’d have invited Callista Flockhart, but she doesn’t eat or drink anything with calories.

           I know this blogger won’t be offended by the public breastfeeding, but everything else is up for grabs.  What if she’s way cooler than I am?  What if we have nothing in common?  What if I get lettuce in my teeth?

            Note to self: avoid lettuce.

I think he might be two

            You might say we are having a few issues with Benjamin, if by “issues” you mean complete lack of interest in anything we have to say. 

“I think he might have a hearing problem,” J says, but I find this unlikely.  True, sometimes he appears not to hear me tell him it is time to brush his teeth, but more often he runs cackling in the other direction, slamming a door shut behind him.  Yes, he completely disregards all instructions to clean up his toys, but since he can hear me whisper the word “cookie” from across the street and around the corner, I am guessing he has selective hearing loss.

            He pulls night lights out of the wall, yanking off the cover and then grasping them by their naked bulbs.  He sits on the potty, pees a little, then cuts off his stream, just so that he can pee all over his baby sister in the bath.  He upturns bowls of peas on the floor just for the sheer pleasure of seeing them bounce all over the floor.  He pushes, he pokes, and he seems intent upon eating his classmates.

            The worst thing about it is that he is so fucking funny.  “Yo, ho, ho,” he bellows.  “I a pirate.  I pokin’ Zachary.”  We don’t even know where he learned that pirates say such things, and we are just hoping he does not learn about the bottle of rum.  Zach has started referring to him as “my evil little brother.”

            Benjamin makes us stifle laughs at the same time we start looking for the “free child offered” section on Craigslist.  His obsession with Tinkerbell would be adorable if he didn’t use the little figurine’s wings to poke people.  The long and involved stories he tells us at the dinner table would be endearing it they didn’t always include incidents like “I pushed Ryan off the ladder” and “Laura take it away because I throw it.”  His insistence that Lilah is sweet would be heartwarming if he could wait thirty or so seconds before hitting her on the head. 

            He understands what we want, make no mistake.  When asked why he was given a time out, he always knows what he did wrong.  He just does not give a shit.  He is highly amused by his own misbehavior, and I’ll admit that it can be awfully cute.

            Which makes it all the more unfair.  Because Zachary has always tried to please, to do what he is supposed to.  Zachary’s needs are complicated and infuriating, but he is never bad just to amuse himself.  He is insistent because he really needs things a particular way.  And, yet, Benjamin gets to be cute while intentionally misbehaving, while Zach is labeled a pain in the ass for insisting things must be just so. 

            So, go ahead, laugh at the picture on my header.  It is meant to be funny.  But just know that behind it are a house full of broken toys, bruised siblings, exasperated parents, and a child who has discovered Daddy’s new shredder.