Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Money and Bananas

This piece appeared in my local newspaper, the Carlisle Mosquito. That's right, I said Mosquito. Check them out here.

My son is learning to talk.

He wakes up every morning and says, lately, m’NEE! At first we (okay, I) thought it must be some mangled version of “Mommy,” the most important word he will ever know, but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t me he was after.

“M’NEEEE!!!” He pointed. We looked. He wanted the change jar, full to the brim with nickels, dimes, pennies and quarters, resting on my husband’s dresser. He wanted money. He’s eighteen months old.

I’m not sure who taught him this word (ok, maybe it was me, by accident) but he wakes up every day, storms into our room and points to the change jar. At first he wanted to eat the m’nee, but then he just wanted to play with it. He wanted to hold it, drop the coins atop one another, hear the delicious clink, poink, and fwap of copper hitting silver hitting glass. Then there was the dumping and refilling. Empty the jar, fill the jar, smile. Repeat. Occasionally a coin would be hurled across the bed or rolled with glee across the hardwood floor.


“You swashbuckling capitalist,” we said, not sure whether to be proud or alarmed. How pure and innocent this first encounter with legal tender, I thought. How long before he knows what money really is and what it’s for and what it can do? That it’s not something to play with, that it’s not merely a toy for our amusement.

Or is it? It depends, I guess, on a lot of variables.

“What were his first words?” people will ask. “Ummm, money?” I will answer, slightly embarrassed. Unless you count “Ow!” which I don’t because it was really more of a complaint that a word.

The other thing he wants first thing in the morning, right after his money, is a “bobo.” Many parents reading along will instantly recognize this as code for “banana.” And God Almighty help you if you don’t have the bobo ready and waiting by the time he waddles down to the kitchen. There has been Defcon 4 level panic in our household when, sometime before breakfast but after Fern’s has closed, someone discovers (ok, my husband) that YES, WE HAVE NO BANANAS.

Let me just say that bananas have been “rescued” from cars and neighbors’ homes and possibly even the freezer before the risk of a morning shortage is allowed to become reality.


It occurs to me again how wondrous and truly amazing the development of a human being is. And what a gift it is to witness it every day (even though, let’s face it, some days it’s like one of those gifts that keep on giving, for better or worse).

So right now his life is about money and bananas. And Mommy and Dada, of course. And that is all he needs, isn’t it? Money and food - things that give him pleasure and sustenance. And the people who help him get those things. It all boils down to that. How much money and how much food you really need is honestly debatable – especially in these times, in this country. We tend to think we need more than we really do, instead of being grateful for the m’nee and bobos we’re fortunate enough to have.

And I guess this is the tough part now, teaching him that, when I sometimes have trouble remembering it myself.

That’s why you have kids though, isn’t it?

To keep reminding yourself of who you want to be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do I Really Have to Buy a Minivan?

No post. No big long tirade. I just want to know the answer is no.

Even though I totaled the family car. By myself. In a driveway. Going about 5 mph.


Don't you just love American Built Products?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Me vs. Cars

And now for something completely different. A LONG one. So sit down and get ready to laugh and ponder. Here's an essay I recently read at Four Stories .


I hung my head in shame, literally. Defeat was making itself at home on my shoulders. Finally, I said it. “I’m willing to negotiate.” I’d held out for so long, it almost felt good to cave. Almost.

My adversary stared at me from his position on the kitchen table, his exaggerated roofline and custom rims no less intimidating for being 1/450th scale. The Matchbox 1968 Toyota Land Cruiser in Canary Yellow from the Adventure Collection. His mirrors glittered with sunlight and power. He held all the cards, which was odd, since he was a toy truck, but let’s face it, this isn’t my first awkward surprise of parenthood.

The war had waged for over two years. The causalities – too numerous to count. I’d made the tactical error of assuming my shock and awe campaign, completed last spring with a giant woven basket from Pier One Imports, would secure victory. The wounded and wheel-less, I’d simply disposed of. I had scooped up the others, every last one of them, under cover of daylight, into the basket and then to the detention holding area of the front hall closet. Fellow detainees the vaccum cleaner, Deluxe Scrabble, a Medela breast pump, and an old rabbit fur jacket circa 1984, had had to make room for the new arrivals.

“This is just a holding area,” I reassured them. “It’s only temporary.” I received looks of contempt. “We are citizens of this household!’ one shouted. “We have a right to be here!” another argued. Then, something about having been welcomed here earlier with open arms, now suddenly they were being treated as criminals, blah, blah, blah. Halfway to the bathroom, I couldn’t hear them anymore. It seemed a finished business.

And yet they had prevailed! Little by little as mud and rain gave way to heat and crickets, then chilled mornings and shorter days, I saw evidence of their escape, but like a hallucinating freak in denial, was convinced they couldn’t possibly have gotten out of the basket, much less the closet, on their own.

A souped-up Mazda in the bedroom, a Honda Accord in the kitchen, a Buick under the refrigerator. A tow truck poised for duty at the front door. And now here we were. In a meeting arranged by former President Bill Clinton, I was finally face to face with their leader – the ’68 Land Cruiser, my son’s favorite, and therefore, enjoying diplomatic immunity. I was sweating, and there was no doubt he was seeing it. Me sweat, I mean. Even though he was a toy. Don’t laugh. This is fucking serious…

They were in my bookshelf. My last haven of adulthood, the lone reminder that once, I’d been a thinking person, with literary and analytical ability. I could discuss things! I could stay up late drinking wine! My poor bookshelf. I glanced there now, a deep and lonely longing for grown-up words and sentences welling up in me.

There’s my copy of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It’s the story of the glamorous playboy editor of French Elle, and what happened to his life, and his idea of his life, after he suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. One moment he was driving his convertible and the next he was in the hospital, completely paralyzed and mute, someone sewing up his right eye. “You have ‘locked in syndrome,’” a doctor told him, meaning he had full mental capacities, but no physical ones. He learned to communicate by blinking his left eye, and with the help of his therapists, wrote a book about his experience. He went from putting out a monthly fashion magazine to writing a deeply personal book with his one good eye. The book was a massive hit – critically and commercially. What you took away from the story was how he had spent a lot of his life taking for granted his connection to all the things that mattered – his career, his wife, his kids, his mistress, his intelligence. But with this unimaginable loss came a new discovery: a different beauty, one he learned to share.

Anyway. I stared at the Land Cruiser in earnest. “This time I mean it. I am willing to –“

“Negotiate?” He laughed, a deep carburetor sound, though not unfriendly. “You have no leverage. We’ve already infiltrated the last neutral zone.”

“Not the bathroom cabinet!” I was aghast. The last sanctity of my private womanhood. My tampons, makeup, exfoliater and thirty-five dollar conditioner - violated! In the bathroom cabinet is an old Ziploc baggie. My secret baggie, seven years old. When I left L.A. I put in it all my pretty and sexy hair accessories. Rhinestone butterfly clips, crystal encrusted bobby pins, tiny velvet bows. These things seem ridiculous now, but ten years ago fashionable young women wore them to clubs, restaurants, movie premieres. I know, because I was one of them. Now they are dented and dusty, broken and dull. But they are mine. Mine!

“Foolish woman. The bathroom was ours last winter. Your son –“

“I know, I know. Lightning McQueen.” Good old Disney and their Manifest Destiny approach to childhood. My son was no match for their marketers, and neither was I. He slept with Lightning McQueen, wore him on his chest, festooned the tiny holes of his Crocs with him, lovingly spoon fed him milk and cereal at breakfast.

“They’re thick as thieves. He’s a very effective agent.” Land Cruiser wasn’t being smug. In fact, I could see, he pitied me.

It was true I had no bargaining power. They were everywhere, unstoppable and menacing in their smallness and sharpness. Every time I opened a door there were more. Tractor trailers, pickup trucks, Cadillacs, corvettes, Dune Buggy Volkswagens - even a Prius! And for my son I had to pretend all was groovy. Force a smile, emit the notion that of course, we could all get along. This was the Land of the Free. But it was still My house. My mind. My life. This is my life now. I had to shed many layers and grow new ones to get here. I don’t mind it, it’s part of evolution. But sometimes I shake with the loss of control. Sometimes I silently scream my lungs out and pray someone will hear me. Then I fix lunch and read Llama Llama Red Pajama.

When the singer Michael Jackson died, the world hungered for someone to blame. What killed him was not the evil enablers, not a drug overdose, exhaustion or suicidal ambition. It was the slow unpeeling of the layers he’d accumulated over the years, decades, to hide who he was – a shy, terrified, lonely and deeply unhappy little boy. This pain had fueled the creation of a gifted artist, a pop music genius and a worldwide celebrity. The fame drove him to a bizarre and troubled existence. He never forgot who he was, which was not the tragedy. The tragedy was that he lost who he wanted to be. He paid the ultimate price – or no, perhaps his children will. I think it’s too early to say.

Later, I discovered the settlements on the front porch, a breach of both the original cease fire and the Second Birthday Agreement. They had dared to establish communities outside the boundaries! Clinton wasn’t available then – or at least that’s what his people told me. Something about his Foundation or getting someone elected, blah, blah, blah. This violation had perturbed not only me but the Tricycle Contingent and the Dumptruck Coalition as well, who had agreed to inhabit a small zone beyond the picnic table, at least during the summer months of heavy travel, and on holidays. After that there were checkpoints for them between the various zones of the property and so far, they’d been cooperative. I prided myself on my diplomatic abilities. I could talk to anyone and I could usually direct a situation toward a positive outcome. Even before playgrounds, snack sharings and toy Land Cruisers -- I had experience with this.

Ten years ago I was at a photo shoot in Los Angeles for a young, unknown actress. She was what people used to call an ingénue, but she wore leather pants and motorcycle boots with flames. She was trying on the expensive clothes the stylist had brought. We were in a fashionable studio in Culver City, and the photographer’s assistant had put on some music to set the mood. “Who is this?” she asked me. “Are you fucking kidding?” I said. “You don’t know Jimi Hendrix?” I felt so old saying that to her. A few hours into the shoot she began to relax, and put on her own CD. “Who is this?” I asked her. “Are you fucking kidding?” she shot back with a wicked grin. “You don’t know Lenny Kravitz?” I felt really old then. And that was ten years ago. I watched as the drama of having your own photo shoot peeled away the versions of her. What the camera wanted was her raw innocence, the gloss of youth, her truth and pain. Of course, with every click of the shutter that was more difficult to capture. The camera was taking it from her, and replacing it with an odd combination of confidence and entitlement.

And so, as the seasons wore on, the business of fighting escalated and the insurgency grew. Our household was divided on the matter; I favored an accelerated defense strategy; my husband seemed satisfied with the current economic sanctions (no new purchases). This wasn’t a terrible idea – at least there wouldn’t be more of them.

Some weeks later I discovered their secret cloning program, hidden for months in the bottom of the toy chest – where, in my pathetic maternal naïveté, I had assumed there lived only innocent stuffed animals. Now, some of them were hostages. For all I knew, it was possible the clones were behind the vicious beheading of Pirate Elmo, but I had no solid evidence. Land Cruiser and his followers were churning out an army whose sole purpose was domination. Yet it went farther than that. He knew it, and now so did I. With every inch of sacrificed real estate went a piece of me. Or what used to be me. Where did that part of me go?

They say that 31% of the country is on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, but I personally think it’s more. If you count caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, cold medicine, certain herbs and the random painkillers people hoard after surgeries big and small, who’s not using? And why not? Isn’t it ok to leave yourself behind sometimes? After you’ve smoothed the edges or blurred the boundaries with a little help, how dangerous is it to not go back? But how much of you are you willing to lose to be happy? If happiness is what you’re after. And whose idea of happiness are you chasing, anyway?

How ill-prepared I’d been for this conflict! Now the cars and trucks were influencing the innocent toys. What would happen when the larger ones turned on me? The rocking horse, the Dream Kitchenette?

I wasn’t going to win. I would have to cede more territory simply to maintain my position – or any position. Would I eventually be completely removed from the homeland? I mean, if this kept up, soon I’d be living in the tool shed. And I don’t just mean psychologically. How could I make him understand my fundamental right to exist?! He’d still never recognized this. He’d only recently agreed to acknowledge “two separate states.” I remember thinking this was a victory for me. Ha. I would still have a state. Although where this state would exist was still murky at best. What was my state? If I could have whatever I wanted in this negotiation, what would it be? Did I want my old self back? No, I had come too far. I just wanted to know she was still available to me, if I needed her. I wanted to know she hadn’t been erased. I wanted to know all she had learned, all she had done, all she had written, all she had uttered, thought, all she had loved – before – was not for nothing.

“Think of your son’s happiness,” he’d said. “What price on that?” Was that what it boiled down to? My son’s happiness or my identity? The stuff of Lifetime movies and Danielle Steele? Fuck.

There have got to be babies that went to the wrong parents. Somewhere in history, fifty years ago or five, in some hospital, you just know some hapless newborn got the old switcheroo. Probably it was an innocent mistake, possibly it was deliberate mischief or even malice. The parents, years or maybe decades later, through DNA or some crusading administrative records agent of justice, stumble upon the news. It would be harder to swallow than the accidental truth of discovering you were adopted. Child, you’re not who you thought you were. You’re not even who THEY thought you were. So if you’re not who you were, who are you? Who are your parents? What is your life, now that you’ve discovered it was lived by someone else?

“Do you even know why you’re here?”

At first I thought it was another voice altogether, my concerned neighbor (she’d heard me arguing with the toys before) or the UPS guy. But then I realized it was still the Land Cruiser, with a softer approach, his tone more idling than revving now.

“Why am I here? I’m here because you’ve driven me to the brink of madness. I’m here because I’ve lost my sense of myself and how things should be and it scares the bejesus out of me. I’m –”

“I mean, do you KNOW why you’re HERE?” He was calm, which was infuriating. I mean, had anyone ever taken anything from him?

“What is this, some kind of cruel acid trip?” I sobbed helplessly. It was tiring, this game of mental badminton. “I don’t even take drugs anymore, I don’t have time!”

He ignored my sniveling. “You are here because of us. We are here because of you. We are an inescapable part of each other. There’s no going back. Surely you understand this, by now?” This time I was childishly grateful for his sympathy.

Once, in college at a party, I smoked a lot of pot, super inhaling the entire joint, just to get a cool guy to think I was cool. I drove home carefully, excruciatingly slowly, fearful of a latent incapacitation to drive or really, to do anything involving the simultaneous application of movement and vision. Once home, I lay awake in bed, horribly worried that I wasn’t actually in my bed, but rather, still driving aimlessly, trying to get home. I couldn’t be sure that I wasn’t just imagining I was home in bed. It was a horrible feeling, not knowing where I was – physically, mentally, never mind existentially. I never got stoned again.

But now, if I were really receiving unsolicited but meaningful spiritual guidance from a toy Land Cruiser, then well, things could be worse, I guessed. I might as well hear him out. I had to give him credit after all. Removing my sanity had been no small feat, and it had taken him less than two years.

“You will never be rid of us.”

“Duh,” I hissed immaturely. This felt good.

“I’m surprised you haven’t had this conversation with the Legos.”

“I have,” I admitted, weary of him, of the whole business of losing myself to hundreds of small, colorful objects.

“The harder you fight, the angrier you become. The more you struggle, the farther peace and happiness recede from you.” So the Land Cruiser was a Buddhist. I felt shame creep up on me like a disgraced dog who’s violated the carpet again but still craves undeserved attention.

“We are you. You are us,” he said, sounding like he was selling some sort of religion. “Why must there be resistance at all?”

Resistance. Such a big part of human life. Oh, the tired and predictable ugliness of it. I looked at the Land Cruiser and his family, strewn across my life like tossed confetti, like the blown petals of spent roses. Like, well, randomly scattered toys. They were pieces of me, all of them, the bitter bits and the tender ends.

A small cry, the untamed voice of need. “Mommy, come.”

My son is up from his nap. I take the Land Cruiser and deliver it to him, tousle-haired in his crib, his wondrous eyes and determined mouth projecting a buoyant, boundless gratitude.

I pick him up; the whorl of his cowlick is damp with baby sweat, his round cheeks flushed. One day he will be a man, taking risks and making decisions, trying to do or create something greater than what he sees himself to be.

For now, his wordless smile opens wide, and I feel something come alive, rise in me and settle: this uncanny strength, this crazy peace.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blue Boots

Today my 2 year old son opened the bag of hand-me-downs from his cousins. Instantly he zeroed in on the aqua blue rainboots with red trim and pull up handles.

It's 70 degrees today, a splendid fall morning. The kind where anything is possible and you feel your potential coming back.

He puts on the boots. Walks around. They are two sizes too big.

Me: "Honey, you can't wear those today. Put on your crocs."
Him: "But I want to."
Me: "It's too hot."
Him: (Eying the boots lovingly). "But I want to."

When does it end, this logic-defying, unedited desire for what is beautiful and new, happy and free? I envied him in that moment. Me, anxiously living in the forward, not in the moment, late for work, rushing us all into the car. Him, fixated on what was in front of him, what pleased him, what made him happy.

He wore the boots.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Got Angry?

Did Burger King know what they were doing when they invented the Angry Sandwich collection? Could they have foreseen my collision with their creation, when, after a ten day vacation (that's a funny word there) with my kids aged 1.5 and 2.8, I exploded into their parking lot off of Rte. 24 coming off the Cape at the end of summer and the end of Sunday and saw the sign - Get Angry!

After a two hour drive filled with screaming, hitting, whining (the kids), singing (mine) and crying (also mine), I was already well beyond angry and deep into Enraged, heading straight for Incensed, Blind with Fury and beyond that, Just Plain Loopy.

Like moms, fast food apparently has a whole bunch of ways to be angry. Angry Tendercrisp! Angry Chicken! Angry Whopper! Angry Double Whooper! There was even an Angry Triple Whopper - I guess for people with not one or two but three unruly, exhausted, famished toddlers at the tail end of a vacation. No matter. The fries (not angry but not serene either) and angry Tendercrisp soon populated the floor, as did our new Pokemon play figure. "Mommy, what's this?"
"A Pokemon."
"Mommy, what does it do?"
"It eats your money. And your pride."
"Mommy, can we get another one?"

How many hours til I go back to work?
Monday morning never looked so good.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sing to the tune of "Where oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?"

Oh where oh where have my sippy cups gone
Oh where the hell can they be??!
Last night I know I had seventy-one
Now, it seems I’m down to three.

There’s one on the floor of my Toyota Prius
And one wedged under the bed
And I think the dog just chewed one up
Perhaps I’ll use a wine glass instead.

I know the Thomas cup’s at daycare,
And Dora must be at my Mom’s
The Nuby one now is full of green mold
And that’s just one of its charms.

My infant hurled the green one out
Of my car going eighty-two
A cop pulled me over and chewed me out
Just as my toddler had to poo

I think they must have gone to the place
Where binkies and favorite toys hide
When children melt down and you need them like drugs
And you’re going to explode inside!

Oh where oh where have my sippy cups gone
Oh where (godammit!) can they be?
If I can’t find one in this whole damn house
Guess my kid will just go thirsty!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stripers Gone Wild (not Strippers, Stripers)

If you are married to a fishing enthusiast, or if you sometimes feel your husband likes fish more than he likes you, CLICK HERE

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Practicing with Pets

More from my guest blogging at Momlogic! Enjoy!

Many couples declare they are "practicing for children" when they take the leap and get a puppy or kitten. Aside from the totally naive assumption that a little Lab mix could remotely prepare you for the onslaught of a newborn human, there's also the possibility that things won't go well with the arrangement. Family politics. Personality clashes. Battles of will over toilet practices. The complete uselessness of the word "no." And the "accidents" ... On second thought, maybe it is good practice -- for toddlers.

But when your husband resorts to biting your cat, what do you do?

My husband is not a cat person. I love all animals, especially those with certain neuroses stemming from strange and unfortunate upbringings. A dog I adopted had been found huddled and starving on Hollywood Blvd. After destroying my home and a couple of relationships, I gave him up. My cat had been abandoned a few weeks after birth -- before any normal socialization or animal pecking order skills could develop. And when I moved into my future husband's (and his dog's) two-bedroom apartment with my cat, I figured we'd all take some time to adjust, but that we'd be one big happy family.

Instead, it was like a step-foster-adopted family, or a bunch of creatures thrown together for the sake of entertainment, like "The Real World" or "Big Brother." The cat knew no boundaries or authority (other than its own, of course) and randomly bit or growled. My husband bit her back, and on occasion, after a particularly insulting scratch as she passed by him in the hallway, chased her down and hurled her across the room. His dog, thirteen and with three legs, had little tolerance for her, either. After the first week of following her around the apartment, the dog completely lost interest, except when the cat tried to steal her food, which was often. After all, she was thirteen and had three legs -- and the cat was clearly an opportunist.

I'm happy to report, however, that with two human boys aged one and two, said husband has not bitten or hurled either of them yet. In fact, he's a complete softie. I, on the other hand, just the other day, found myself screaming, "Stop screaming! Both of you, WE DO NOT SCREAM IN THIS HOUSE -- STOP SCREAMING NOW!!!!"

Which just goes to show ... nothing. Don't judge a person's potential parenting skills based on the way they treat animals. We still have the dog and the cat, and they have both mellowed considerably since we had children.

I just can't remember the last time they were fed.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ten Simple Rules to a Flat Stomach: obey!

Herewith, in response to the absurd number of times I receive this message daily, is my own answer to this ubiquitous question.

Seems there are ten rules to a flat stomach. Thanks to friends and family for their thoughtful contributions. And they are:

10.lie down
9. hang from a tree with weights on your ankles
8. don't eat
7. tapeworm
6. photoshop
5. surgery
4. bulimia
3. a good imagination
2. drugs
and the number one rule to a flat stomach, courtesy of Marcella Pixley, author of FREAK, is
1. no babies

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Boys Club

This post was published by Momlogic. But I'm so proud of it I am running it here too. Plus no one has yet commented that they hated it. A plus. Enjoy.

"Mommy, these are my boobies."

Tracy McArdle: So proclaimed my 2-year-old son, proudly tweaking his nipples mid-bath one night. His eleven-month-old brother smiled approvingly from the shallow end. I always thought I wanted a daughter, but now that I am the mother of two boys, I wouldn't have it any other way.

When I first became pregnant, I envisioned myself and my daughter riding on the local horse trails together, even going to competitions. Horses have always been a part of my life, and I'd always hoped my kids would ride. The idea of attending football games or worse, hockey practice at 4 AM, didn't appeal. And there are just not many male horse enthusiasts, for whatever reasons. So I prayed for a girl. And I prayed she wouldn't want to be a cheerleader.

Gradually during my pregnancy, I became convinced I was carrying a boy -- and after Ryder was born, I had to make that uncomfortable decision about circumcision, my first taste of gender helplessness. I had to imagine the potential consequences of something I had no idea about -- well, not directly, anyway. Would my son resent my decision ten, twenty years from now?

When I became pregnant a second time, I thought, I'm throwing up -- it must be a girl. I am gargantuan -- it must be a girl. I really feel and look like shit -- according to everyone, it's gotta be a girl! The ultrasound proved me wrong, and I'm ashamed now to admit the disappointment I felt. "Couldn't that be an ... arm?" I protested weakly when the technician pointed out the telltale appendage on the monitor.

"If that's a girl, you come back here and show me!" she laughed.

But then Henry was born and he was so different from my first son -- fussy, spirited, curious, and engaging, particular, physical, and goofy. And watching them together when Henry came home and his big brother adapted to his presence, calling him "Baby Henry" and pointing to my breasts, declaring, "Those are Baby Henry's" -- that's just something I still can't put into words.

I have older friends with daughters approaching the danger years -- ages 13-40. I was lucky that the local barn kept me out of a lot of backseats when I was growing up. I don't envy their present and future spats about curfews, clothes, jewelry, cell phones, money, boys -- you name it. I'm not saying mothers don't argue with their sons -- I just feel grateful not to have to have the conversation about looking like a cheap slut when my daughter thinks she looks good. I know because I tortured my own mother with feather earrings and feathered hair, tight pants, and low-cut tops.

I also admit it's kind of cool being the only chick in my house. I feel special. I know that with boys, I will probably go to the emergency room more. I will probably yell more. I will be heartbroken when some cheap-looking slut steals my son from me. Relax, I'm kidding.

But I guess the moral is, your child's birth is the moment when you let go of expectations, and learn to embrace what you've been given. Because it's almost always richer and more incredible than you could have possibly imagined.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things I do while driving.

That MBTA driver texting his girlfriend while driving a subway trolley – and causing an accident injuring 50 people! What a horrendous story! The kind of thing that happens and you think – what an idiot! Texting while driving a subway car full of people!

Then a moment passes and you think: That could have been me. If I drove a subway, I mean.

We all do it. Driving distractions. My favorite driving distraction is getting angry at other drivers doing distracting things that I was just doing. Like talking on the cell phone. Drinking coffee. Reading. Making egg salad. You know. You all do it too.

In fairness to the publicly scorned MBTA driver (he had two previous speeding tickets! Criminal!) herewith a list of things I confess to have done while driving.

I have made and received phone calls
Made doctors appointments
Canceled doctors appointments
Canceled my paper for a vacation
Called my pet sitter
Called my pet
Eaten breakfast
Eaten lunch
Ordered dinner
Drank coffee
Filed my nails
Tweezed my eyebrows
Backed down
Had contractions
Taken drugs
Planned a wedding
Peed (yes, it’s true)
Farted (kidding – I’ve never farted)
Laughed again
Changed shoes
Changed clothes
Changed realtors

Things I have not yet done while driving:

Gotten divorced
Clipped my toenails
Switched seats
Done a paint by number
Ordered a cute bathing suit from a catalog
Changed the asset allocation in my 401(k)
Changed a diaper
Given birth
Given blood

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Happy F#$% Mother's Day

There seems to be a deeply sentimental Mother’s Day email poem going around.

Nothing against "those people” but I thought y'all might enjoy another version.

Here’s a sampling of the original:

Before I was a Mom,
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night
watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom,
I never held a sleeping baby just because
I didn't want to put her down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces
when I couldn't stop the hurt.!
I never knew that something so small
could affect my life so much.

Yada yada yada.

Ok, just in case you’re not TOTALLY moved by that, here’s another version. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. And if you laugh just once you are not allowed to report me to DYS.

Before I was a Mom
I didn’t know the
Power of vodka
Or Percocet

Before I was a mom
I had a waist
And an I.Q.
I went shopping (for me, I mean)

Before I was a Mom
I “slept in”
Til noon
Not 7.

Before I was a Mom
I had sex
And enjoyed it.

I never ate
Cheerios off the floor
Because it was my only shot
At breakfast

Before I was a mom
I did not accidentally squirt people
(a nurse, my mother-in-law)
with my breast

Before I was a Mom
I was a vain, selfish,
But thin

And it
Was fun.

Thursday, April 30, 2009



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Waterboarding for moms

Another ear infection. I simply cannot take it. Another missed day of work. Another night of screaming, whining and weeping. And the baby's crying too. Dangerous, general unpleasant thoughts about my child. Oh God of the Mighty Middle Ear Canal, Make It Stop, I Beg You.

After deciding I cannot go to work (again), I open the door to the first beautiful day in months. It's 90 degrees outside and far too early in the season for us to have actually excavated the air conditioner from the shed. The cat has left a deceased mole on the front step, in an effort to siphon attention share from the sickly children.

The toddler wants to know why, why, why does the baby cry? Why does he have a boo boo in his ear? Why is he sick? Why does he cry? Why? Why are we going to the doctor?

The elderly 3-legged dog defecates three feet from the doorstep, in the path I use when carrying said baby and toddler with diaper bag, cel phone, purse and water bottle.

And oh year, watch out for swine flu. It's 8:30 a.m. I am a Bad Mother.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Get on Your Ass

Sit down, Mommy!

That’s what he says all the time, my two-year old. He doesn’t mean it in the “stop and smell the roses” sense, he means it in the “sit down next to me RIGHT HERE MOMMY and read me this book / watch Bob the Builder again / tell me a story one more time” sense.

And I try, I really do. I usually say, “I will, honey, I will. As soon as I finish washing this dish / unloading the dryer / paying this bill / wiping the counter / checking my email / changing your brother’s diaper / finding your father’s cell phone…and so on.

But you know this, because you’re a mom. And you also know that you’re supposed to savor these moments when your children want you and need you, because later on, even if they do they won’t admit it. My secret fear is that my kids will grow up while my back is turned washing dishes.

So I’m telling all of us today – stop. Sit down. Sit down, Mommy. Take the time. It’s a cliché but you know what they say about clichés. LA is shallow. Men driving expensive sports cars have small penises. The more money you have, the more you need. Clichés are clichés because they are true. So here’s a cliché for you. It’s later than you think, and the harsh truth is….the laundry police won’t confiscate your hamper if you wait one more day.

Sit down, Mommy. You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Old friends

First, we named our muffin tops. This is what old friends who haven't seen each other in years and who find themselves in a tiny town in Mexico at a knitting retreat do. Christen the growth spurt between the belly button and the hips. You know. That general area that has become de riguer to show off with low cut jeans and clingy tops short on real estate. Mine was called Sylvia, and Valerie's was Fredo, after the ill fated, doofus brother of Michael Corleone. Christina dubbed hers Blanche, for reasons unexplained, although she is a bit of a literary snob.

We ate, we drank, we lay on our beds gossiping and roaring in hilarity about former colleagues and things that were not so funny when they happened years ago (like when I delivered a swift uppercut to the gut of my rental horse when he refused to cross Amsterdam Avenue en route to Central Park for a "relaxing trail ride." But that's another story).

My friends don't have kids, and they marveled that I went days without checking in at home. That was a conscious decision on my part (like not calling Daycare two minutes after you've left your screaming child there) but I let them think I had everything inexplicably under control. Did I miss my kids? After a couple days, yes. But those first two days - sleeping, eating and walking on my own schedule? It was like I had never had them, I'm ashamed to say.

But rest assured, by day 5 I was feeling like a Bad Celebrity Mother, drinking magaritas and getting pedicures while my kids fell under the dubious care of someone else (their father).

And the first thing I did when I got home at midnight after twelve hours of travel was tiptoe into their rooms to hear them breathe, watch them dream, and will them, with all my heart, to stop growing so damn fast.

Monday, March 09, 2009

More Caffeine for Deserving Moms


I just returned from my first ever vacation without my family! No baby, no two year old and no husband. I went to Mexico with two long lost friends, and ate so much rice and beans and cheese I may explode.
So now I'm back and mainlining caffeine, because my flight got in at midnight and it's daylight savings and (hang on - I don't need excuses to mainline caffeine, cause I'm a mom. And so are you! I'd bathe in coffee if I could. Which brings me to my point. And I do have one):
Momlogic has chosen to feature me in the MLC Coffee Club. Yay!
Every day for a month, you'll have the chance to win a Keurig Single-Cup Coffee Maker, just for leaving a comment on my blog and on my profile page....so get out there and do it!
You can comment on my profile page. Or or on one of my favorite posts, Terror in the Water, which is of course, about poo.
I know, you can't wait to read it.
Thanks for reading, and for not making me feel bad about my addictions.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My First Mammogram

Like a colonoscopy, pap smear or credit check, a mammogram is an essential but humiliating part of good health maintenance. And like those things, mammograms aren’t fun, even though the word itself sounds like an old fashioned but festive form of communication. “Time to celebrate? Send her a mammogram!”

The first thing you notice when you get your first mammogram is that it’s all women in the place. Unlike the sonogram business – a happier technology experience, though no less invasive – there are no male nurses, technicians or even doctors around.

First you fill out a form that has a diagram featuring two “normal” breasts. The boobs on the form are fuller and better shaped than your boobs. You’re supposed to draw on them, indicating any areas where you and your bazookas have had trouble. I had no disturbing medical history but for honesty’s sake, I added a few stretch marks.

“Don’t tie all the ties on the johnnie; then there’s too many to untie,” warned the technician, who had earlier asked if I had applied deodorant today. This is the woman who, very shortly, would be manhandling my breasts into what I will call “the giant boob crusher machine.” I told her I hadn’t used any deodorant that morning.

“Good,” she said. “You’d just have to wipe it off.” They don’t want you getting white paste or clear gel strong enough for a man all over their expensive radiology equipment. Never mind that you’re likely to be sweating more than usual today, as irrational fears of oh, say, cancer, dance through your head as each phase of this bizarre ritual passes.

I could see that my technician, Barbara, or Barb, as her nametag read, had done this a thousand times. I was a mammogram virgin. “Will it hurt?” I asked, eyeing the giant machine and feeling bralessly vulnerable in my untied johnnie, which was like an 80’s half shirt version of a johnnie: it stopped at the waist. Barb frowned into her computer screen. “It’s uncomfortable,” she allowed. Oh yes. That’s also the word they use to describe labor before you’ve had it.

I was studying the giant anatomical illustrations of healthy breasts when suddenly Barb was on me. Before I could say, hey, that’s weird, she was applying a tiny round sticker with a metal ball in the center to each of my nipples. “This is so the technician has an easier time reading your breast.”

I glanced down at the tiny dots and thought dually of my son’s obsession with round band aids, and the movie Showgirls.

“What, no tassles?” Barb didn’t laugh. The room grew chilly, or maybe it was just because I had no shirt.

“Step up here,” Barb ordered. I obeyed, and Barb placed my right sample onto a plastic tray on the machine. Above the tray was something that looked like one of those machines that Wile E. Coyote gets flattened by, then waddles frantically about like a pancake with flapping feet and a disoriented expression.

“We have to compress the breast in order to see all the tissue properly,” Barb explained. This was before I understood that “compress” means “violently squash by slowly increasing degrees.”

With my breast ceremoniously sandwiched between the tray and the ACME pancake maker, Barb twisted the knob, which is really another word for vice. The metal lip sunk down crisply to meet the plastic tray, and my newly compressed knocker wasn’t going anywhere.

“Ow,” I said, which was an understatement if you want to know. Barb gave the knob another twist, and I was reminded of the rock climber who sawed off his own arm with a Swiss Army knife after becoming trapped under a rock. What if Barb left the room and there was an earthquake? Would anyone find me, wearing a pink half Johnnie, trapped there by my own mammary? If I was discovered, could I ever recover from the indignity?

“Hang in there,” said Barb, and I could smell that she smoked. Maybe all that stress worrying about cancer every day for dozens of strangers had made her take up the habit.

Then it was time for the next shot. They don’t tell you that each boob is going to be squished (I mean compressed) at three different angles.

“I’m just going to move your arm forward here,” said Barb, meaning, “so I can force all this extra flab by your armpit and collarbone into the vice.”

When it was over, I asked Barb when I would get the results. “We can call you later today,” she said. Wow! This was way better than an amnio, where you stick a needle into your pregnant belly and then wait for two weeks to find out if your baby has brain damage. I had to sign a form that gave the hospital permission to leave a detailed message on my machine. I thanked Barb for violently squishing my rack repeatedly, but not in those exact words.

Then I asked if I could keep the stickers. She didn’t answer.