Monthly Archives: June 2010

The impossible dream

I think it’s time for a housing recap, because unless you’ve been keeping a running scoreboard, you have probably lost track by now.

So, first there was the big, charming yellow house with seven bedrooms, no dining room, termite eaten support beams, and knob and tube wiring that the owners had no money to fix.

Next there was the big, charming, six bedroom house backing onto the wooded parkland that we did not have enough money to buy.

That house was followed closely by the architect’s house, perfectly restored on the first floor but in dire need of work on floors two and three.  We loved that house and made an offer, whereupon the architect decided she loved her house too much to sell it.

So, we made an offer on another house, which the owners rejected, probably wisely, because shortly thereafter they got a much higher offer.

Moving right along.  We went back to House Number Two – the six bedroom backing onto wooded parkland.  We loved the house.  It was not my dream house, as my dream house would have a model train running along the ceiling through several of the rooms, but it was a charming old house.  We dug under our sofa cushions, found some loose change, and upped our offer a tiny bit.  The owner accepted, and we went under contract.  Only to be undone by knob and tube wiring again.  When the owner of that house discovered that she had knob and tube wiring, she decided not to sell her house at all.

We seem to have that effect on people.

Then there was the big faux pas.  Up until that point – Houses One through Four – we had been Virtuous Buyers, never at fault when the deals fell through.  House Five, however, was the Big Fuck Up.  We came to an agreement on a house that had been on the market for a year.  No one wanted to buy it because it lacked a master suite and a lot of the charm had been snuffed out.  We would need to put on a master suite addition in order to ever sell the house again.  We were through inspections and seventeen seconds away from going under contract when J decided he just didn’t love the house enough to go through that kind of a major project.

OK, sixth verse, same as the first.

House Six was a smaller house, still in need of work, but at the low end of our price range.  Awesome.  I like spending less instead of spending more.  Except the owners have delusions of grandeur and think the house is worth 10% more than it actually is, which might be why it has been on the market for over a year.  So, no deal.

Then came House Seven.  I wandered off to an open house down the street from where we are living now.  The house was 15% over our price range, but I just wanted to see it.

This one was a giant ranch house.  We are not, as a rule, big ranch house people.  This ranch, however, is stunning.  Perfect floors, master suite, office for me, rooms for the kids away from the main living area, giant finished cellar, brand new kitchen with an eat-in sunroom.  The works.  This house had me at “hello.”  As I turned to tell the listing agent that I’d send my husband back to take a look, I happened to glance up and see it.

A model train running along the ceiling, going through the kitchen, sunroom, and laundry room.

So, we put in an offer.  There was already another offer on the table, a very, very low offer.  We figured maybe we had a chance if we came in with only a very low offer.  I wrote an impassioned letter, and our agent put the model train as an inclusion.

Well, today we found out that they accepted our offer.  There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the house, so hopefully we will pass inspections.  The house is too new for knob and tube wiring.  Barring termite eaten beams, seller cold-feet, or a typhoon that engulfs the entire town, we might actually have a chance of fixing a closing date.

A girl can always hope.

Goodbye, farewell, and amen

Three years ago, I was a newbie blogger.  I didn’t know much about this medium, and I was still trying to figure out how to find readers.  I stumbled upon Julie’s Hump Day Hmmm.  I wrote a very personal, very difficult post, and posted a link on Julie’s blog.  Many of Julie’s readers left me lovely comments, and I went to read their blogs, thereby forming relationships with other bloggers. Instantly, I had found a community of readers.

One blogger left a comment both for me and for Julie.  Her comment on Julie’s list of posts was “Emily’s post knocked me flat and I haven’t gotten up since.”  I remember this three years later for two reasons.  One, I remember shit like that, which is either annoying or impressive, depending upon whether you like to be quoted back to yourself twelve years later.  Two, that comment was the encouragement I needed to keep writing, to envision myself a blogger and then a writer.

That commenter was Sarah, once Slouching Towards Forty, but now a few years Slouching Past Forty.  What can I say?  We all get older.

Sarah has been a friend and a colleague these three years.  She and I read each other (although as you know, lately I suck at reading blogs).  We email, we’ve even exchanged voicemails, but with five kids between us, we never seem to catch one another in. She is a remarkable writer, adept especially at imagery.  Perhaps too lofty a writer for this medium of click-and-click-away.

This week Sarah posted her very last post.

She has her personal reasons for leaving blogging, I am sure.  But to me, it is the end of an era.  The bloggers who started with me are drifting away, and while new bloggers are finding me, I feel like the curmudgeon in the corner grumbling, “Folks sure ain’t what they used to be.”  There are a few of us left – just a few – who have been at this for years, but with Chani’s death and Sarah’s exodus, my online world feels a little emptier.

My grandfather once wrote a poem about growing older that chronicled how one feels at each decade.  All the wrote for being an octogenarian was, “Did you ever feel you’ve stayed too long at the party?”

Yes, Grandpa, sometimes I do.

But, I’m still here, still clutching a paper cup with beer, standing in the corner, watching my friends head for the exit.

Because the universe recognized I couldn’t handle another difficult child

Lilah – as part of her effort to be the easiest child in New Jersey – has started potty training at twenty-one months.  As you may guess, that means we spend a great deal of time sitting in the bathroom.  Actually, she spends a great deal of time sitting in the bathroom; the adults take a shower, go fold laundry, or reply to a few emails.  She wouldn’t want to be a bother.

She was having some trouble distinguishing between farting and pooping, being quite convinced she had pooped when in fact she had just passed a little gas.  Every time she did it on the toilet, she’d look alarmed.  “Just a little fart!” I’d tell her, until she began to realize what she was doing.

Now, every time she toots on the toilet, she smiles delightedly and announces “Fa!”

We were cooking together on Sunday morning, when I smelled something from her diaper.  “Did you poop?” I asked her.

“Es!” she replied.

“OK, let’s go change your diaper.  Go lie down.”  She scampered over and lay down on the floor.  It turned out, however, that she once again had confused gas with a bowel movement.  “Oh, sweetie.  You didn’t poop.  Just a fart!”

She shook her head and grinned.  “No fa; mama fa!”

Her very first sentence was a fart joke.  Daddy is so proud.

But it was a fart joke that required a semi-colon, so she’s still Mama’s little girl.

The center cannot hold

I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my son’s therapist’s office, and I’m crying.

I’m on the phone with my mother-in-law, telling her that Zachary is completely imploding.  He has been lashing out at his parents, his siblings, and his friends.  Earlier this week, we had a friend over and Zach kept yelling at him to stay where he had put him because otherwise he would cheat at some game they were playing.  Zach called his friend “rude,” which is astonishing because this is – and I say this having had a great deal of experience with kids in many different places – the nicest child in the Western hemisphere.

Yes, the nicest child in the Western hemisphere wants to be friends with my son, and Zach shat all over that gift.

Then, today, I pick him up at school, only to have the aide in the classroom inform me that Zach spent the morning telling kids he hates them and hitting.  She’s standing there, no sympathy in her voice, rattling off his list of offenses.  The teacher isn’t in, and so it has fallen to her to tell me that Zach has been having problems for a week.  A task she seems to delight in, by the way.

“Pouting!” she says.  “Like that.  See that?” pointing to him.  Because maybe I don’t know what my kid pouting looks like.

So, I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my son’s therapist’s office, and I’m crying.

My husband doesn’t think this therapist is doing Zach very much good, and perhaps he is right.  After all, Zach is still just as anxious as when he started six months ago.  We are seeing no improvement in his behavior or his self-esteem.  Because it is all about low self-esteem.  He’s off-the-charts smart, and I mean truly off the charts, but all Zach can see is that for some reason he doesn’t fit in with his peers.  He doesn’t know why, so he figures it’s because there is something wrong with him.

Or maybe them.  Maybe there’s something wrong with them?  Yeah, that’s it!  If I don’t feel like I fit in with my peers, let’s blame THEM.  That oughta make me feel better.

I have a call in to a new therapist.  I am hoping she can get in to observe him before the school year ends, because he only exhibits these problems with other children, so she needs to see him in his native element.  In the meantime, the uncertainty of the end of the year is killing this kid.  We still haven’t found a house, creating more uncertainty, and since he has been moved so much, Zach puts no stock in our assurances that we are only looking for houses right here in town, near his friends.

If he keeps any friends.

I can’t figure out how to help him.  We get him therapists, we talk to him, we shower him with positive attention, we create boundaries – we do all the right things.  But sometimes – in moments when I am being honest with myself – I recognize that we are just chasing our tails.  Because we can’t help him.  He’s going to have to learn to fit in on his own terms, and we can’t show him how to do it.

Which is why I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my son’s therapist’s office, and I’m crying.

Spirit of it

It is Spirit Week at my son’s school, which means that each day there is a theme and the kids are supposed to come in costume, a fact I registered and then completely forgot until we were walking up to the kindergarten line on Monday morning and noticed that several of his classmates were wearing tie-dye for “Hippie Day.”  No matter – I ran back to the car, grabbed some Burt’s Bees colored lip balm, and put peace signs on his cheeks, mumbling something under my breath about  how peace signs are not particular to an era and maybe something else about how being a hippie is a state of mind, not a fashion statement.

Tuesday was mixed-up crazy day, but Zach is a first child and therefore could not possibly wear his clothes backwards or inside out.  Hell, I’d be lucky if I could get him to wear gold and silver together or white before Memorial Day.  He decided to tie a sock around his wrist.  Whoa, there kiddo.  Don’t get too out of hand.

Wednesday, however, was a snap.  Wednesday was advertised as “Earth Day – Go Green, Recycle.”  That one I had covered, although I’m not sure the mother whose SUV idles outside the school for half-hour every single afternoon had any clue what to do.

We walked up to the kindergarten line this morning, and Zachary started to pout.  “I’m not wearing anything green,” he complained, looking at his friends.

“Zach, the theme is Earth Day – Go green, Recycle.  You are wearing a Scrap Kins shirt.  They live in a recycling center.”

“Yes, but trees help too,” he told me, looking at a girl with paper leaves glues onto her pants.  Paper she will most likely need to throw away this afternoon.

“Your shirt is organic cotton, and it is about recycling.  It is a small, locally owned business, and it was shipped to us from New York, so it has a small carbon footprint.  Your pants are organic cotton, made by a company with socially responsible business practices.  Your underpants are also organic cotton, also made by Hanna Andersson.  In fact, with the possible exception of your socks, everything you are wearing is ethically produced.  You are the most ethically dressed kid here.  Possibly in New Jersey.”

He looked unconvinced, sighing with envy as a child ran by covered in cotton balls, shouting “I’m a cloud for Earth Day.”


You ever have one of those mornings where the kids are hitting each other and you are trying to get them ready and they are yelling at one another and you start yelling at them that they shouldn’t be yelling and everyone is out the door in time to walk to school when the middle one decides he needs Cookie and Skunky to come to school with him and you are starting to leave when the older one realizes he forgot his show and tell and you send him back in for it and he starts wailing from inside the house because it’s not where he left it and you go back in and grab him by the hand and march him up to his room where it’s sitting on his nightstand and you are furious with him and snarling that he can’t just lose it over every little thing and shouting that maybe if he kept his temper we’d be out of here by now and you know how ridiculous that sounds and realize the windows are open and the neighbor is walking his dog?

You ever have two of those mornings in a row?

You ever have one of those afternoons where the middle one is so tired that he starts wailing every time his brother looks at him which makes his brother look at him more and the older one kicks his brother when you try to get them out of the house and they get into a wrestling match in the middle of the road right in front of the house and you realize this is even worse than yelling at them with the windows open but at least you haven’t yourself exhibited any horrific parenting so you figure this is actually a win?

You ever wonder if you can send them to their rooms for two weeks?

Your kid’s kindergarten teacher ever tell you that your son has a low tolerance for frustration and loses it quickly and your other kid’s preschool teacher ever tell you he has trouble keeping his temper and you stand there nodding but you really want to scream out who do you think he learns it from and frankly she lives down the street from you and has a dog so really she probably heard the yelling this morning?

You ever feel like there’s just not enough fair-trade chocolate in the world?


So, as you know, some time ago, Zachary broke his toe.  The toe has mostly healed, and he has resumed his normal activities.  And then, this afternoon, it happened.

His toenail started coming off.

We knew it would happen.  It was all black and creepy looking.  We were prepared.

Except I don’t know what to do now.  It is only attached on one side.  Do I rip it the rest of the way off?  Leave it hanging like that?  Book a three-day cruise to Key West?

OK, that last one has nothing to do with the toe, but I think it would be fun.

Please, folks, send some advice.  Because we’re just sitting around, waiting for a toenail to fall off.