Monthly Archives: October 2009

Railroad train pajamas

Our new au pair has a boyfriend.  Even though she has her own private space in our detached, converted garage, we have set the house rule that he cannot stay overnight, lest our home become a den of iniquity.  He is only in town every so often, as he is a consultant, but we would prefer not to be his landing pad when he is here.  He stays with an uncle.  Perforce, Jeanette decided to travel to Atlanta this past weekend to visit him, even though she was under the weather when she left on Friday.  We put off her flu shot till this week, once she got over her cold.

Saturday morning, I looked out the window across the yard and noticed the door to her room was hanging open.  This I found disconcerting.  I called her in Atlanta, and she assured me she had locked it before leaving.

Which is how we ended up with two cops in our backyard, cautiously entering the detached garage with guns drawn.

It turns out that Jeanette had locked it improperly.  J has the spare key on his keychain, so he locked it and sheepishly thanked the nice officers for their time.  We went about our weekend, and then Monday morning, he left for his usual week of business travel, with the spare key safely tucked onto his keychain.

The smarter among you have probably figured out where this story is going.

Yes, a few hours after J had safely landed in San Francisco, Jeanette arrived home in Los Angeles, dug through her bag, and discovered she did not have her keys.  She clearly had not locked the door to her room because she had left the keys inside.  Inside the locked room.

You may be wondering why my husband has the only spare key when he travels at least four out of every five business days.  What can I say?  We just haven’t gotten around to moving the key to my keychain.

It is all OK, because we have a very comfortable couch.  For twenty-five bucks, J Fed Exed the key back to us, to arrive Wednesday morning, and our au pair hunkered down for a couple of days couch-surfing.

Whereupon she promptly developed something that resembled the plague.  That cold she had taken with her to Atlanta was a lot worse by the time she came back, oddly not ameliorated by the cross-country flight and the weekend canoodling with her boyfriend.

Tuesday morning, it was clear she was in a bad way.  Her health was probably not improved by my children awakening her at dawn’s first light.  Her eyes were barely open and she was coughing hard.  I left to take the boys to school and kept Lilah out till 10:30, hoping that would give Jeanette a chance to sleep it off.  When she came on duty at 11:30, she looked like partially digested cottage cheese.  I ran out to get Benjamin, admonishing her to wash her hands regularly in very hot water, not touch her eyes, and touch the baby as little as possible.

I also told her to make a doctor’s appointment.

When I returned, I was ever-so-pleased to learn the only appointment she could get was 2:15, when the two little ones are sleeping and I need to pick up Zachary.  I sent her off to spread contagion among the people on the bus while I frantically scrambled to find a friend to pick up Zachary while I simultaneously put the two kids down for their naps and called a locksmith.

I also baked a batch of muffins, because I still needed something to pack in the next day’s lunches.

It was rather clear to me that no one’s best interests would be served having her sleeping on the couch for another night.  It was time to pay the $75 to get her back into her room.  To her credit, Jeanette offered to pay for the locksmith.

The locksmith arrived, only to tell me that this kind of lock is impossible to open without a key and that the only thing he could do for me would be to drill out the lock on our very expensive doors.  Thanks but no thanks.

Not long after, Jeanette called to tell me she had been diagnosed with the flu and conjunctivitis.

To recap: I had an au pair who was locked out of her room and sleeping on my couch, breathing flu and smearing conjunctivitis on us all.  I had a baby who had not gotten a flu shot due to a suspected egg allergy.  I had a husband out of town on business, although that’s pretty much par for the course around here.  And I had an apparently impregnable lock on Jeanette’s door.

We dug out some hotel points and booked Jeanette a room for Tuesday night.  The last thing Lilah needs is the flu.

I decided that the boys would be getting a little extra television time while I marshaled my forces for the siege ahead.  I used a good portion of that time trying to turn off the oven light, which had been on since I removed the muffins from the oven, despite the fact that I had never turned it on.

For dinner, we ate carrots, muffins (Zachary rejected his, as they hadn’t baked as thoroughly as usual), peanut butter and jelly (except Lilah, because we didn’t have the allergy blood test results back yet), and pasta (on my portion, I put butter, olive oil, soy sauce, and parmesan cheese; don’t say a damned thing or I’ll make fun of your comfort food).  About three-quarters of the way through dinner, the doctor called to discuss Lilah’s blood test results.

As we talked, I finally figured out why I hadn’t been able to turn off the oven light after baking the muffins.  One side of the door wasn’t closing properly.  This explained why the muffins hadn’t baked quite right.  I opened the oven to try to jiggle it back into place, all the while listening to the doctor and keeping an eye on Lilah to make sure she wasn’t choking to death.

Again, I am going to guess that some of you know where this story is going.

The oven door fell off in my hand.  Actually, only half of it fell off, so I kept clutching it to keep the other half from coming off.  I stood there, still trying to listen to our doctor, holding the oven door up with one hand.  Whereupon Benjamin started talking.

Now, at this point, I probably should have asked the doctor to hold for a second and used both hands to reattach the door.  I also probably ought to have the spare key to the back room on my key chain.

I did not ask the doctor to hold on, because I she is a busy woman.  She is also a soft-spoken woman, and I have two very loud sons.  Who would not shut up.  I could not go in the other room because I was still holding the oven door on with my right hand.  Every few seconds, I had to interrupt the doctor to admonish my sons to be quiet for a minute.  No one will be surprised to learn that I got increasingly less patient as they continued to try to talk to me about whatever dross seems to be of the utmost importance to them, while I was on the phone getting the baby’s blood test results and holding the oven door on with one hand.

Given the frustration she heard in my voice, the doctor may be calling in the next few days to inquire if I am feeling overwhelmed.  I will politely direct her to read this blog post.

Lilah, it turns out, is mildly allergic to almonds, peanuts, egg whites, and garlic.  The hives that she gets every time I cook?  Probably due to the fact that I put garlic in pretty much everything short of chocolate chip cookies.

The oven door was pretty easy to reattach once I had both hands free.

My sons bit one another while I was washing up from dinner.

My au pair is out of commission for a good couple of days, at least.

And, tragically, I cannot drink, because I am still nursing the baby.

Some days are like that, even in Australia.


Conde-Nast has pulled the plug on Gourmet, not to mention a pair of bridal magazines and Cookie.  Conde-Nast, the untouchable ginormous center of all things magazine, is shutting down four magazines.  You may wonder why I give a shit, as the only one we subscribe to is Cookie, and that is mostly for my husband.

I care because I am a writer, and I am not particularly thrilled to watch the publishing industry go up in great big puffs of smoke.  It is gasping for breath, people, because no one is buying and no one is advertising.  People are still reading, but they are turning to the internet for their material.  We’re all too busy getting the milk for free to buy the cow.  Which is all well and good until the cows all die of starvation and then there’s no more decent milk and we’re all stuck drinking that Silk crap.

(Yes, I am fully aware I just compared writers to cows and then pummeled the metaphor into ground beef.)

And, yes, I am more likely to read Bitch than Vogue, but I’m damned glad that Vogue is there, not the least because they actually pay writers to produce.  We need people who make their living writing, not just people who write for the sheer joy of it.  Writing is seriously hard work, and if people cannot get some remuneration for it, they will most likely have to find another way to spend the hours between midnight and three AM.

I am tired of people acting like any fool can write and why the fuck should we pay for books when we can get them for free on the internet.  I will continue to blog because I think there is a time and a place for this kind of exchange, but I do not think blogs replace newspapers.  I do not think free e-books replace the kind with two covers and a publishing house behind them.  I do not think e-zines replace the kind of magazines that makes me pretend I really need ten minutes in the bathroom because I just want to finish an article.

We are facing a crunch like everyone else.  I’ve cut back my book buying.  But I feel strongly that reading material ought to be very far down on the list of things to be curtailed because we can eat beans instead of meat, but there is no substitute for intellectual activity.

In my bathroom, we have Cookie, The Economist, The Pennsylvania Gazette, The New Yorker, Ms. Magazine, Hip Mama, and Brain, Child.  Glamour sits on the table beside the glider where I nurse Lilah, which is why I know it is OK to wear florals in the wintertime this year, should I every decide to buy any new clothing.  I take books out of the library, but I also try to fit buying them into my budget now and then.  I value the work done by writers and editors, and I am willing to pay for it.

Don’t mind me

I have been pretty much abysmal at reading your blogs lately and spotty about posting here.  I am juggling quite a lot and working on the, you know, paying gigs.  My apologies for sucking big time at being a blogging friend.  I have, however, actually finished reading a whole book, and my review is up at Edge of the Page, in case you are hungry for my dulcet tones.


Lilah, who just rounded a year old, is an elegant eater.  She prefers to dine, picking up one pea at a time, as her older brothers storm through the meal beside her.  Benjamin eats like a caveman and Zachary eats like a compulsive dieter.  Their baby sister eats like a girl who realizes her mother has enough drama without more dinnertime histrionics.

She eats what we give her, selecting from amongst the morsels with measured enthusiasm.  While she prefers beans to chicken, she doesn’t whine or cry if the dinner is not her first choice.  She just eats it.  Then, when she is finished, she looks at me and starts talking as she clears off her placemat.

She is asking for dessert.

I bring in fruit, and she eats that for awhile, too.  Meanwhile, Tweedledum and Tweedledee have left the table twenty minutes ago and are pummeling one another in the living room.  J and I sit at the table, deflated, trying to pretend for a few minutes that Lilah is an only child.

It is a pleasure to feed this little girl, truly it is.  Except.  And here’s the big except.

The hives.

Oh, my god, the hives.  Everything she eats seems to make her break out in hives.  First, it was just all forms of squash.  OK, we can avoid squash.  Then it was eggs.  Fine.  Daddy and Zachary are allergic to eggs – we can handle that.  But then we noticed a few other things seemed to trigger the problem.  Like lentils.  And possibly other beans.  And tomatoes.  And chicken.

Who the fuck is allergic to chicken?

How exactly are we supposed to get protein into a child who has only one tooth but is allergic to everything?  I would prefer to limit her soy exposure, as I don’t want her getting bosoms before she leaves preschool, yet a (hormome-free) t-bone is out of the question.  She doesn’t even have enough teeth for hamburgers.  Plus, of course, I need to be cooking food for the entire family, which means that it has to be something that suits Benjamin’s tastes, Daddy’s peculiarities, and my rather high health standards.  Since Zachary doesn’t actually eat, he gets no vote.

(By the way, don’t even try to suggest things to feed her.  Please trust me when I tell you that I have thought of every possible permutation and there is some problem with every conceivable meal.  Either Benjamin doesn’t like it or J won’t eat it or it makes Lilah’s head spin around and sprout horns.)

We need to figure out to what she is allergic, as baby Zyrtec is currently her third biggest source of calories.  When Zachary got his allergy tests, they poked his back with a series of plastic prongs and then looked for the reaction, a procedure that he is in no hurry to repeat, allow me to add.  They decided he was severely allergic to eggs, which we could have told them.  He has always had a reaction to anything made with eggs unless it involves baking them with lots of grains to absorb whatever proteins make him ill.  There also seems to be a tree nut allergy, which is fine, as I cannot imagine him requesting something like a handful of walnuts or a bowl of toasted almonds.  Thank god there was no reaction to peanuts.

They prescribed an epipen, a nifty little device that his exemplary parents manage to forget to bring with them about 92% of the time.  Fortunately, Zach promptly vomits up all egg products, so we will probably never need the thing.

Lilah, however, seems to be a lot more sensitive and she is still tiny.  She needed blood tests to determine exactly what she can safely consume.  We were able to narrow the possibilities down.  I rarely feed her processed foods, so I know all the ingredients in everything she eats, but it still involved a very long line of little vials they needed to fill.

So, I was assigned the task of holding her down with my body while three technicians sucked seven vials of blood from her arm.  Baby girl did her job, too.  That consisted of screaming with fury as she vainly attempted to get to her right thumb, which was tragically the same arm out of which they were removing a third of her blood.

As soon as the technicians were finished, she stuck that thumb in her mouth and then sat on my lap and whimpered.  Eventually, when I felt strong enough to walk, I took her out to the parking lot and managed to get her to the car without hyperventilating.

As I was strapping her in, a man walked by with his child in a wheelchair.  It was clear this little boy was severely disabled, both physically and mentally.  He and his family face enormous challenges every single day.  What ails that child will not be healed with a few tubes of blood and some Zyrtec.

Lilah’s blood tests haven’t come back yet.  Yesterday, baked beans gave her hives.   I suspect there are a few more epipens in our future.

If you know me IRL, it’s your turn

Yesterday, I asked those who know me only through my writing to list some of the traits they imagine me to have.  As of 10:00 last night (PST), the following were the responses.

Note: I have tried to group together related comments, indicating which were repeated several times.  I have separated comments by different people within the same topic using semi-colons.


Opinionated (x4); Outspoken


Great sense of humor; a sense of humour that’s a touch on the dry side; funny as hell; ironic; Witty (funny, but with intelligence); Quippy; “the type of person to throw zingers that people think are funny – until they get home and realize it might not have been a compliment. And everyone else wishes they were the one who said it, because it’s the truth, but no one else had the balls.”

Quick to see and laugh at what’s absurd



Forthright; honest; Direct (x2)

Somewhat anal

Likes to swear

Deeply committed and passionate about the things that touch you, Passionate, Dedicated

Fiercely loyal and generous to those you love; fiercely protective of those you love.

Ruthless with yourself; hard on yourself; prone to self-reflection that sometimes more closely resembles self-doubt.

Intense (x2)

Quiet (x2); Quiet in new situations – closely observing and generating opinions, outspoken in familiar situations.



Demanding; Fierce; tenacious







Stubborn; you see things in black and white – no shades of gray.



And, my favorite: Also I think you smell like fresh baked bread.

Indeed, I do.  When I don’t smell like sweat and puke.

OK, those of you who know me in real life.  It’s your turn.  What do you think of this list?  How well do people know me from my writing?  What would you add?  This leads to all sorts of questions about which person is more real – the written or the in-flesh.