Monthly Archives: March 2009

Merry Puppets

            My mother-in-law, emerging from a catatonic state brought on by watching Wonder Pets for four days in a row, recently sent the boys a couple of DVDs.  The first to arrive was The Sound of Music, which I quietly buried under a stack of old Baby Einstein boxes.  While I am happy for the hills to be alive and all that crap, I am not quite ready to explain the Nazis to Zachary.  The second movie was Mary Poppins.

            It seemed benign enough, so one afternoon when I had no help and needed Tweedledee and Tweedledum to stop fighting for a half-hour while I fed their Twedledette, I stuck it in.  The one-show-a-day rule is, like all other rules, made to be broken by exasperated mothers. 

            If you haven’t seen this movie recently, you probably remember a bunch of chimney sweeps and in interminable sequence when everyone goes into the chalk drawings.  But, the movie is not all spoons filled with sugar.  Oh no, it certainly is not.  In this movie, there is a mother who is so busy parading around with a bunch of suffragists that she cannot seem to make time to raise her children.  That’s why she needs a nanny.

            It actually reminds me of quite a few families I know that have full-time help, two kids, and a stay-at-home parent, yet somehow always seem completely overwhelmed.  (OK, that was kind of bitchy, especially since until this week I had half-time help and an au pair arriving next month.)

            Anyway, in the movie my children now fondly refer to as Merry Puppets, the suffragettes march around the house a little at the beginning of the movie in sashes, before they head out into the streets to demand the right to vote.  Zachary looked a little confused. 

            I told him that women weren’t allowed to vote back then and the mommy is asking the government to change the law so women could vote.  Zach sort of nodded as he fixed his attention on the screen, so I decided to pass on explaining that the entire premise of Mary Poppins is that Mrs. Banks is a deficient mother for wasting her time agitating for the vote when she should be home minding the children.  We’ll save feminist film theory for another day.  Gotta leave something for them to learn in second grade.

            If I had any ability to learn from past experience, I would have realized that the conversation had merely been tabled for another day.  Anyone who has ever spent longer than 90 seconds with a four-year-old knows that, two weeks later, as we were walking to the library, Zach busted out with: “But, why were the women not allowed to vote?”

            So I explained that some people thought women weren’t smart enough to vote.  “Does that sound fair?” I asked, which was probably a leading question.  What ensued was a string of questions on his part about legislative history and a string of lame attempts on my part to explain the nineteenth amendment.  (Because I was already over my head, I was not going to get into the suffrage fight in two different countries.)

            “Mommy, how do they,” pause to search for the word, “cancel unfair laws?”  Somehow, this line of questioning landed us in Prop 8 territory, as he wondered about how laws change.  But, then it occurred to him: “What happens to the people who were married before Proposition 8?”  At which point I found myself trying to explain Supreme Courts and lawyers to a four-year-old.

            I was really fucking relieved when the conversation finally ended and resolved that we would be reverting to our old viewing habits.  Tinkerbell, at least, doesn’t require an entire civics lesson.

            Unfortunately, Passover is coming, and the preschool teachers explained to the children that the last plague made the Egyptians really sad, but they didn’t tell the kids the precise nature of that plague.  Come on.  Really?  Did it not occur to you that this would only pique their curiosity?  There’s nothing like trying to explain the Death of the Firstborn while merging onto the Freeway.

            “But, Mommy.  Why was God mean to the Egyptians?”

            I think I’ll book him an appointment with the rabbi.  And I’ll probably stop opening packages from my mother-in-law.

But it’s not about hate

I have a new post up at LA Moms Blog.  In case you haven’t read enough about Prop 8, this one actually says something different than my twelve other posts on the topic.

Dark? Me?

           For two years, my children ate pasta so frequently that they would periodically burst out into long strings of Italian in the middle of the night.

            For a lot of that time, we had almost full-time nanny help.  We were paying someone else to care for our boys, even though I was not bringing in an income.

            When we did not have help, I got up early or stayed up late.  I took full advantage of nap times.  I stole away on weekends.  Even while we were moving and in temporary housing, I kept on at it.

            We did it all in service of the dream.  We could picture that book.  J believed it would happen even more than I did, because if I brought my head up too long to think about it, I would get too distracted to write.

            I landed an agent over a year ago.  A good agent with a track record and excellent editorial insights.  She and I have been working closely to get the book in shape.  In September, the same week I gave birth to Lilah, she began pitching the manuscript.

            We came close several times.  People would read it three times before rejecting it.  But, ultimately, they all rejected it.  So, I revised in December because there were more people to send it to in the new year.  I revised with one hand while breastfeeding with the other, and the book was, even in the author’s eyes, good.

            But, my agent has not been pitching it.  Not because she doesn’t believe in it or because she is a negligent person.  There is nowhere to pitch it.  Publishing houses are folding.  Those who are in good financial positions did not get there by buying depressing books written by unknown authors at the onset of a depression.  No one wants dark books right now except the British, and the UK publishing industry is collapsing.

            So, we talked last week, and she is shelving the book.  She says she’ll try again this summer if things look less bleak.  But it is hard not to feel like Molly Ringwald yelling “What about prom?”

            And it is mighty hard to remember that Chekov also probably couldn’t have gotten published in this climate.  Because I know Chekov is a good writer, and I have no validation (other than your generosity) that I am.

            However.  However.

            We are all relatively healthy.  We still have our home.  There is still an income coming in.  (Did you just hear me knock wood three times?)  And, although it is taking all the false belief in myself that I can muster, I am starting in on another project.

            While breastfeeding.

“only one in any number of generations can write what is written”

            The good news is that I think I have found a writing project I want to pursue.  While I did a chunk of the research in my past life as a doctoral graduate student, there is still a great deal of reading and thinking to be done before I begin to write.  Which brings us to the bad news.

            I’m going to back off from blogging for awhile.  I’ll post from time to time – maybe once a week – so do check in here.  But, I am like tofu: my writing takes on the flavor of what I am reading.  So, I need to stop reading blogs for the most part and concentrate on books.  I’ll be back, but if you don’t see me around your blogs, you know where I’ll be: neck high in Gertrude Stein.

            Yes, really.  I’m dumping you for Gertrude Stein.  Only, don’t think of it as dumping.  Think of it as “being on a break.”  Really, I’m just cheating on you with Gertrude Stein.

            I’m excited about this.  Lately, my writing has been about as dried and shriveled as my grandmother’s breasts.  Often, when I finish a long project, I flounder and wonder if I’ll ever find something else I want to write about.  I have come to realize that the subjects always present themselves. 

            Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is an egotistical lesbian expat genius awaiting my attention.  I just hope Alice Toklas doesn’t get too jealous.

Jack Sprat and his brother

            One day, Benjamin had a substitute teacher in his preschool class who was new to the school, and by the time I picked him up at noon, she was well versed in the natural phenomenon that is my younger son.  Then, three hours later, I came back to pick up Zachary, who stayed for the afternoon session with the same teacher who had looked after Benjamin in the morning.

            She did a double take.  Having spent three hours with one child and then three hours with the other, she had no idea that they were related to each other.  One is fair while the other is dark; one eats everything while the other subsists on air and crackers; one has giant lips and eyes while the other has fine features; and one is built like a brick shithouse while the other is built like an emaciated piece of celery.  Only one of my children has junk in the trunk.

            The most confusing thing for this substitute teacher was that there are few similarities between their behavior, their temperaments, and their ways of approaching everything from negotiating slide usage to singing during circle time.  In fact, other than the fact that neither of them ever shuts up, there is very little my sons have in common.

            Since then, we’ve had other substitutes, family friends, and occasional crossing guards comment upon the difference between these two boys. The contrast between the two of them underscores the most intimate aspects of who they are.  And there is so much I want to write about it.  There are personal, uncomfortable things one or the other goes through that I want to muse about on paper and figure out. 

            But I can’t.  I can bare to you some of the most stressful things about parenting, some of my deepest fears.  But that’s about me.  What I don’t have the right to do is expose my observations about the deepest and most personal aspects of their psyches online.  It’s just not my place.

            A lot of it comes neatly wrapped with sociological observations with which I would just love to dazzle you.  Oh, well.  Guess you’ll have to settle for my sparkling wit. 

How you know I’m not from around here

I have a post up at LA Moms’ Blog, but I think I offended people, because there aren’t many comments.  Please go make it look like I have friends.