Sunday, January 31, 2010

Children of Implacable Will

It normally starts a few days before the weekend. One of my nephews will text Bar Mitzvahzilla, the message always the same: can you sleep over on Saturday night?

And then that's the end of my life and all my peace and tranquility for the week.
Once the invitation's been issued, Bar Mitzvahzilla goes through a complete transformation. He is single-minded, of implacable will, a heat-seeking missile with one target only: he must go to his cousins' house this weekend. This is for several reasons. There's the video game reason, there's the awesome violent movie reason, and there's the fact that in a household with no sensitive ten-year-old sister around who would be traumatized by three gigantic boys stalking her with knives clutched in their teeth, the boys can do anything they want to each other.

Husband and I look at each other wonderingly - why can't he be this driven about school work? As a matter of fact, if he wants an answer on whether he can go, we want an answer about whether he's brought up his grades. He brings us over to the computer, pulls up the school website and points proudly to math, which is a 79.3%. This is made up of an A on classwork, where he is watched like a hawk, and a D on homework, where he is on his own. The two scores average out, teetering at the edge of a B, something he's pretty proud of. Husband and I sigh but we say yes, he can go.

Then we start getting a little optimistic. After all, we're one kid down and one to go. We are almost Kid Free here. Bar Mitzvahzilla sleeping out, all we have to do is dump Daughter on one of our unwitting friends and we could - gulp - almost have a honeymoon night.

But not so fast there, fella.

Daughter is not going anywhere. She, too, has an implacable will and she's not budging an inch until she has to leave for college - and that's eight years away. She prefers her playdates at our house. There are no sleepovers, not her at her friends' houses or of them at ours - they are all perfectly matched chickens. Her best friend comes over for the evening.

So Bar Mitzvahzilla ends up across town at my sister's house. Husband and I? We go on a date with two ten-year-olds.

Do your children have implacable will? Are you getting the hints already of a will stronger than your own? Are you torn between admiring their inner tyrant and laying down the law? 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Face It

It's the question whispered at my exercise class. The question women talk about in hushed voices. The question women talk about at lunch. The comparisons, the notes, the names of doctors.

The question? What work are we having done? Or, more specifically, what exactly am I going to do about this nearly fifty-year-old face of mine?

I know, I know. I'm not very organized. I'm supposed to have a plan - a highly detailed plan. For my upcoming birthday I should be giving myself the gift of an eye lift. I should be on a schedule of botox and fillers by now. This is serious business - the avoidance of aging - and a full-time job. I need to get with the program.

Ever since these conversations started, and with five older sisters they started a long time ago, it's been like I live on a different planet. I just don't get it. I have to understand an underlying philosophy to get a concept. I have to want to look like a younger version of myself to want to have work done, right? So, I'd have to have had a heydey when I was younger, when I looked so great, when my looks were peaking and men were chasing me in the street. 

The problem is I never had a heydey. I can't look at any point in my life earlier than my forties and say, That's how I want to look forever because first I had a congenital problem with my jaw that required major jaw surgery at twenty-nine, and then I struggled with my weight till I was forty. Funny chin plus 211 pounds does not equal heydey. It equals tent-like dresses and comparisons to Jay Leno.

I also have to understand a few other things before pursuing treatment. As mortal creatures don't we all want  to get old? Like we don't want to die young, right? Is there really any chance in the world of me being eighty one day and not looking it?

I have this horrible fear of walking around with hair that looks like a twenty-year-old's when I'm sixty, or ripped up jeans when I'm seventy. At fifty, of course, I have to goodbye to my youth, but I don't have to say goodbye to beauty or looking good (or hair dye). Maybe I'm just going to look really, really good - for a fifty-year-old.

So what am I going to do about this fifty-year-old face of mine? Nothing. I like it.

Did you have a "heydey" when you were younger or are you, like me, an extremely late bloomer? Have you encountered "plastic surgery conversations" and do they make you feel uncomfortable or empowered?

(Thanks to Big Little Wolf and her intriguing post on Heidi Montag's surgeries for sparking this.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Seven Things

Because Chris over at A Deliberate Life awarded me the Beautiful Blogger Award, I get to tell you seven things you may not know about me. Here goes:

1) My mother, for some reason, named me Jane, not Linda. Then my uncle came to see me at the hospital and decided I was not a "plain Jane" (no insult intended to all the Janes out there) and decided my name should be Linda. Despite the fact that my name had already been entered on my official Cook County Birth Certificate, my immigrant mother undertook the name change all by herself: she took a pencil, picked up the unofficial hospital document with my footprints on it, and wrote in the name "Linda" above the name Jane with insert marks. This caused a lot of problems years later when I tried to get a passport.

2) Because of the Holocaust, my parents had a troublesome relationship with Judaism - like they were pretty much atheists. How I ended up being such a believing, faith-filled, goofball of a Jew is almost incomprehensible. I can only attribute it to the fact that sometimes, with Holocaust Survivor parents, you can get to a point of Holocaust Overload, when your parents have told you too many stories, and you shut down and become a blacksheep for the very thing they dislike: Judaism.

3) I had a miscarriage and infertility and Husband and I had just signed up for an adoption home study when, the next day, I found out I was pregnant with Bar Mitzvahzilla. Then came more miscarriages and infertility and then infertility surgery, and guess who was conceived on an operating table? Daughter. Luckily she looks like Husband and not like the doctor.

4) One time I sang sad Patsy Cline songs at the Moose Club in Las Vegas with my boss at the time who played in a Country Western band there. For just a moment I imagined a career as a Jewish Country Western star - I just wouldn't sing Jesus songs.

5) I was married once before, in 1986 at the Little White Wedding Chapel on the Las Vegas Strip with a scratchy record playing the Wedding March and holding a dusty plastic bouquet of flowers. I was divorced very uneventfully three years later at a City of Phoenix Courthouse.

6) After my dad died when I was a teenager and we lost our family business, my mom got the bright idea to get food stamps since we were flat broke. We were easily the only Jewish family in Scottsdale in the 1970s on foodstamps, and for sure the only Jewish family driving down to the food stamp office in an aging Lincoln Continental each week, me hiding in the back.

7) Bar Mitzvahzilla was born a pound and a half preemie, though he is now much, much bigger than that. He's big enough, and big-mouthed enough in fact, that after sassing off to me very badly yesterday, he wrote me this lovely apology: "Dear Mom, I am sorry for being so rude, spiteful and snide to you. It was wrong of me and I will try to never do it again. But I'm an adolescent so I may fail at that part. So anyway, sorry and I hope you can forgive me. From your only son who you will ever have that you shouldn't be mad at forever because he's your only son, Bar Mitzvahzilla" [that's not really his name, just fyi] 

So here I'd like to say thank you to Amber over at Making the Moments Count for giving me a Lemonade Stand Award, awarded to bloggers with attitude and gratitude, because getting a note like that from my former preemie fills me with both.

Any naming stories of your own? Faith against all odds? Fertility close calls? Snotty teen apologies? (I won't ask about Las Vegas Weddings, Moose Lodges, or Food Stamps...) 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Old Money Bags

Husband had a Big Birthday yesterday. While I blab about my upcoming 50th birthday all over the place,  he's a little more touchy about his which is - do the math - five years older than me.

We did all the obligatory family celebratory things: Bar Mitzvahzilla, Daughter and I all drew him handmade cards. We planned a romantic, candlelit dinner, but then realized the kids wanted to come along. They were unsympathetic to our desire to be alone. Weren't we alone every single night at bedtime?

Then, after our celebration was through, it was time for Husband's Lamentation, a yearly ritual he must go through, tormenting both himself and me about why he's not a millionaire yet.

I don't know if this is just a guy thing, but each birthday since Husband was about 45 he has moaned and groaned about how rich he should have been by each respective age. Millions and millions of imaginary dollars should have been in the bank, apparently. And, again apparently, as he casts a withering glance my way, it's all my fault.

I have to withstand the glare because I guess it's true. I've spent all the money. I don't think it would have been millions, but I'm responsible for some significant portion of frittering. Over seventeen years of marriage, who knows how much?

There's the ill-advised vintage Barbie collection in our den gathering dust, something that seemed like a good idea twelve years ago when I was in my second bout of infertility inbetween having the kids. There's the fact that we have enough furniture in the house to fill a house twice this size, that there are enough pictures standing along walls to fill walls twice as high, and the fact that I have enough clothes - all from sales racks - to change my shirt several times a day and never run out.

But here's how men and women are different. When I hit my birthday each year I think, "I should have had a book published by now," or some other miserable writing related mantra. I never think that I should have been a millionaire. Truly, growing up with as much deprivation as I did, I'm amazed every day that I have any money at all. Only a man would think that.

I try to look on Husband lovingly and benevolently during this time period because I know it's tough on him, this longing for Money That Never Was. And I can afford to be nice right now anyway. For this six-week time period, from January 22 to March 7th each year, I'm actually six years younger than him each year instead of five, a youthful babe to his doddering old man. Who can blame him for festering?

Do you have an achievement lurking in your mind that you expect to accomplish by a certain age?  Does your spouse or partner have a completely different goal? Is it monetary, fame, success, love, happiness, or what? 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Grandma Muttering Darkly

It was the evening of Daughter's preschool graduation. The children had all prepared and prepared for this big night, wearing costumes and little graduation caps and receiving scrolls that were their "diplomas." But there was something wrong. There was a weight upon my lap. Oh yes. Daughter, sitting on it, crying, and refusing to take place in the ceremony.

Why? Because she was a neurotic mess.

Me? Can't pull me away from a ceremony. Daughter? Sobbing on my lap.

Me? Participated in every piano recital I could get to, collecting miniature plastic Beethoven busts until they cast a shadow over my piano in Skokie. Daughter? Will only take lessons of any type if guaranteed ahead of time that there will be no performance.

This all would have been fine, just personally humiliating - nothing unusual for me as a parent - if I hadn't made the mistake of asking my mom to attend the graduation. I didn't always ask her to attend things, what with the leaving the house issue, and wearing enough coats and the sickness issue. But because I did, I had a double humiliation:  Daughter on my lap sobbing and my mother next to me muttering about spoiled children and how I should "make her go up there."

Flash back to Skokie, 1971. It was a big year for me. I had become a big time Skokie pianist, famous in my own mind. My amazing talent had catapulted me past all the other little Jewish girls marching reticently over to our piano teacher's apartment building each week and had managed to get me the hard version of every song the entire fifth grade was playing - from Sunrise Sunset to If I Were A Rich Man. This earned me two distinct accolades: a spot in the elementary school orchestra playing Kumbalalaika, and a spot playing Love Story in front of the entire auditorium for my fifth grade graduation.

My piano teacher was there. My friend's trampy mafia-hooker mother was there, a ring of empty seats around her. My teachers were there. Guess who wasn't there for either performance? My mom. In 1971 she was busy all year readying herself for my oldest sister's wedding. In 1978, the year I graduated high school, she was busy all year readying herself for the third sister's wedding. This year I'm turning 50. She'll be away on a cruise. Coincidence?

Yet she sat there fuming at my sweet, nutty Daughter, like she herself was an expert at graduation ceremonies. Little did she know, later that evening that little nut of mine reenacted the entire ceremony for us from start to finish. She sang all the songs, danced all the dances, and had me call out her name with her play microphone so she could come up to our pretend podium in our family room and get her diploma.

No sobbing, no sitting on my lap. No muttering grandma looking on.

Are you the kind of parent who goes to everything or just the necessary things? Did your parents attend every function when you were a kid? Do your kids relish time in the spotlight or shy away from it?

A big thank you to Kristen at Motherese, for reminding me about the topic of neurotic children!

In the Help Haiti Blog Challenge, from Jan. 15th to Jan. 20th this blog received 48 comments, for which I am donating $2 each to the Red Cross, or $96.00, and adding an additional contribution of $54.00 to equal $150. Thank you for helping me help Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Living in the Palace

It all started with a psychic I saw many years ago, when I was single before I met Husband.

Things weren't going well in Jewish Singles. I needed a sneak peak into my future. As a matter of fact, my girlfriends and I all needed sneak peaks into our futures.

From time to time, we’d do this. We’d pool our money and go see some celebrity radio psychic who came to town, or we’d go for individual readings, or we’d Rent-A-Psychic, installing one in the conference room at work, split the fee, and then traipse in and out of the room, pretending we had appointments.

This particular time, I found my own psychic in the Yellow Pages and went alone. He seated me in his living room carefully, and suspended a plastic pyramid in the air over my head. I looked up, concerned now that he might be too New Agey for me. I wanted specific, practical information. Nothing about my eternal soul. I was thirty-one, after all. I needed to know about marriage and children - like would I ever have either? To my chagrin, he wanted to talk about my many illustrious lifetimes and why I was wasting this one working for an insurance company.

When I got him back on topic, he quickly coursed through it. Yeah, yeah - depending on how I handled the end of the relationship I was in - and it was definitely going to end, news to me - my true love could be close by or years away. Yeah, yeah - I was going to have two children, a boy and a girl. Then he sat up and got quiet, like he was listening to something from far away.

“Oh,” he said. “Here’s something interesting: your son is going to be a great world leader.”

Here’s my advice for anyone who ever hears this from a psychic: don’t tell your son that the psychic said this. Because even if you tell your son this story like it’s an amusing anecdote about this funny thing you once did, that son might suddenly use that as an excuse to never work hard again. Knowing that he’s going to be a great world leader, he can kick back, lay around like a huge bum on weekends, and barely rise from bed on weekdays. What does it matter anyway? How hard can he be expected to work? After all, his fate is sealed. He’s already been anointed King.

Since Bar Mitzvahzilla believes he’s going to be a great world leader, there are whole problems that have been removed from his agenda. Worried about his future? No. Worried about where to go to college or whether he’ll get in? No. Worried about what he’ll major in? No. When pressed on this last point, fine. International Politics.

One day, appalled at him for again getting out of bed five minutes before we have to leave for school, I say, “How do you know the psychic meant you? Maybe he didn’t say it would be my son, maybe he just said one of my children was going to be a great world leader. Maybe it’s your sister!”

Daughter, startled, is not comforted by this idea the way Bar Mitzvahzilla is. Her ambitions are a little lower, like really low. For a while she wanted to be a cleaning lady. Then she wanted to be a cook. Not a chef. Just a cook, like at McDonald’s. When given the cornucopia of occupation choices in the world, anything from, yes, World Leader to Scullery Maid, she will choose the lowliest, most miserable occupation.

But it’s okay because they’re a team. Bar Mitzvahzilla looks at Daughter and reassures her.

“Don’t worry. No matter what you are, you can live in the palace.”

Do your kids know what they want to be when they grow up? Is one of your children more ambitious than the other? Are they different than you at the same age? Ever seen a psychic?
Please click on this link to donate to the Save the Children Fund for Haiti, or you may donate to the Red Cross through this link. This blog is part of the Help Haiti blog challenge and will be donating $2 for each blog comment entered from 1-15-10 through 1-20-10, including my own responses.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Heads Up

I'm wandering through a party store yesterday alone, up and down the aisles. Somewhere in the store is Daughter and her best friend. They've ditched me in a mad rush to cover more ground. I'm a slow-moving adult.

I gave them two choices of where we could go to buy a few cheap trinkets for them to play with. There was the dollar store or the party store. They chose the party store because of all the dress up stuff, and the wonderful opportunity to make fun of me - there's a gigantic 50th birthday aisle filled with geriatric devices that they pull out to humiliate me in advance of my 50th birthday in March. I especially like the bra with pulleys and springs. Little do they know I've needed that one for years.

But I'm alone when I discover the treasure trove that we end up buying. I schlep back to the front of the store to get a cart it's so perfect, so wonderful, that I need many of them. What is it? Styrofoam wig heads. Fifty cents each.

What can I do with a styrofoam head? What can't I do? The girls can paint them. I can mosaic them. Bar Mitzvahzilla can bring them to his friend's house and shoot them with air soft guns (though I'm only willing to sacrifice one to this waste). As a woman with, at best, half a head in working order at any time, I know I need some support. I need these heads.

But first we have to get them to the cashier and then out of the store. We put fourteen in the shopping cart. It kind of looks a little weird, I'm aware of that - bodyless, chopped off heads, all pale and staring. It's a little gory, unusual for me since I have a low scare threshold. But for art, for the dream of art, for a three-dimensional canvas? For that I'll load up a pile of heads.

I carry four heads at a time into the house, one under each arm, one in each hand. A head drops and rolls in the garage. I think of the movie Rear Window and look surreptitiously at my neighbors' houses to see if anyone's watching me. I pick up the head and get inside.

Later I'm driving Daughter and her friend to the friend's house where they'll spend the evening. They're both going to paint their heads to resemble the boys they have crushes on. Suddenly they both get really quiet. I look in the backseat and catch them kissing the styrofoam lips.

Okay, then. I guess they can be used for that too.
Thank you to Kristin over at Motherese for awarding me the Happy 101 blogger award, my first ever! This post encompasses many of the things that makes me happy: my daughter, her best friend, whom she's known since the baby room at her preschool, art, the dream of art, my son and how he'll always turn things on their head because of, well, testosterone.

I pass the award on to a blogger who, though I've just found her, never fails to bring a smile to my face: Charlotte of Memories for Later. Thanks, Charlotte for your humor-filled posts and for reminding me that just because our particulars are different, we are very much the same inside.

Please click on this link to donate to the Save the Children Fund for Haiti, or you may donate to the Red Cross through this link. This blog is part of the Help Haiti blog challenge and will be donating $2 for each blog comment entered from 1-15-10 through 1-20-10, including my own responses.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing Anyway

I happened to be enrolled in my very first Creative Writing class ever on September 11, 2001. It was the fourth class of the semester, a Tuesday, and my day off from work. I had dropped my kids off at school that morning - one at a Jewish Day school and the other at a Jewish preschool. In my car on the way home I had my radio on and the news alerted me to the fact that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York.

The day got worse and worse. By noon Arizona time it was obvious, to me at least, that there was the distinct possibility that terrorists were fanning out across the country, attacking various targets. Were the Jewish schools next? I did a U-turn in the road on my way somewhere to go pick up my kids as a precaution, just as my phone rang with the first of the two schools telling me they were closing for the day.

For a bunch of really stupid reasons I had waited until I was forty-one-years-old to ever take a writing class. So, even though as the day was unfolding, writing was looking like the most stupid occupation in the world, I asked my mother to watch my kids so I could go.

I walked into the class and, surprisingly enough, so did all my other classmates. By then, we knew the devastation that had taken place in New York. We all felt embarassed of our writing, of even thinking of writing ever in our entire lives. How could we have ever been involved in something so stupid and self-centered as writing, we asked our professor? People were dying, jumping out of buildings, planes were crashing, and we were sitting there writing.

And she said, don't ever believe that the work you do is unimportant. It's the writers who will define what happened today for generations to come. It's the writers who will write the books and the articles and explain what life was like on this day so historians can write the history of what this day was like. Without writers, we'd know nothing about the Vietnam War, nothing about the entire history of the human people. It's the writers in a society who put form to experience. Never feel bad about writing. Writing is an important job.

I've thought of those words of hers a lot in these quiet days in the blogosphere following the earthquake in Haiti. I've thought, none of us wants to be funny, or write about our kids, or about our exercise or weight loss efforts. None of us want to be trivial because we're worried about trivializing the lives that are, even now, being lost.

But then I think of her words and that creating relationships is no small task, and that making people laugh is not a job for the weak-willed. That writing about the world, even in a tiny corner of it, is a noble task, and carrying on in the untouched world while being touched by the tragedy is not a contradiction in terms.

So I'll keep blogging, and I'll write my humor, and you'll know that, even though I'm doing that, I'm thinking of Haiti.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Breaking News

It's a typical nighttime in our house. Husband and I are reading the newspaper together, the kids are both taking showers in different bathrooms, trying to race and see who will use up all the hot water first and deprive the other of an enjoyable shower. After all, any day you can cause misery to your sibling is a good day for either one of them.

Husband got to the paper before me so I'm reading each crinkled up, disheveled section after him, and I'm actually thinking he read each one thoroughly.

I ask my him, "Did you read that story about the real estate blogger who posts pictures of ugly houses on this blog?" 

He looks at me blankly.

I recap the story briefly to jog his memory. He's still blank. I give him a look.

"Did you read the paper?" I ask. He says yes, he just didn't read that one story.

Right. I look at him suspiciously. I know he's really only reading the comics and checking the weather for tomorrow. And we live in Arizona; it's not like there are any dramatic weather changes in store for us. 

Amazing. Here we are, sitting next to each other at the kitchen table, reading the same newspaper, married nearly seventeen years, yet so different that we stare at each other blankly when one of us wants to discuss a particular story with the other. Okay, it's always me who wants to discuss a story and it's always him looking at me blankly.

Nearly seventeen years of mismatched marital bliss.

Yet this time, one thing we agree on, one story we haven't missed - the plea for aid to Haiti. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sound the Alarm

Husband and I are different in so many ways. One of the most obvious? How we wake up.

We're sleeping. The room is dark - very dark. We made sure of this by putting up drapes over our wooden blinds. So we have no sense of what time it is by the amount of light.

But then the alarm goes off.

On Husband's side of the bed, things are starting to move. His is the organized side of the bed, which means he actually heard the alarm. The night before, he meticulously set the alarm for twenty minutes before he needs to get out of bed, so when it goes off, an arm claws its way out of the covers, reaches for the clock and he puts it on snooze. Then he snoozes. It goes off again. He puts it on snooze again, now watching it like an alligator, with one eye open beneath the covers. Then it goes off the final time - it is 6:58 AM, time to hop out of bed. And hop he does.

Over on my side of the bed, things are a little less organized. First of all, I don't hear the alarm clock at all, not the first time, nor snooze numbers one, two, or three. This is mainly because Husband has set the alarm to turn on with music, and very quietly, so, in my lazy dreamlike state, I just weave his Classic Rock station into the fabric of my dream.

But he's out of bed, opening the curtains, welcoming the day, waking up the kids, while now I'm staring at the clock in denial. I know I have six minutes till it goes off again and I know the latest time I can make it out of the house with a shower. Then, laying there half dead, I try to do the math to figure out how many snoozes I can have. 
Bar Mitzvahzilla and Daughter have cross-inherited our tendencies. If I'm waking up the kids, sometimes Daughter surprises me by being fully up and dressed yet laying under the covers in her room tricking me. Okay. That would make her like Husband.

No chance of that with Bar Mitzvahzilla. He can sleep through his light being turned on brightly, his radio blasting, his cover taken away. We can walk in there a half hour later and see his big feet and hairy legs sprawled out on the bed, all of him comatose. And that would mean he takes after me.

Yet, somehow, at 8:00 everyday, despite all the smashing of the alarm clocks, all the storming into Bar Mitzvahzilla's bedroom to make sure he's up, all the suspicious questioning about the brushing of the teeth, a car - one or the other - pulls out of the driveway on its way to school, in time for the school's alarm at 8:15.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dream House

I've lived in my house for almost seventeen years. We built this house as newlyweds and I've been stuck here ever since. I need to just face the fact that I'm never getting out of this house.

I should have known when I met Husband that he wasn't the kind of guy who moved around a lot. He was pretty settled in his own nice little house back then. The fact that it was in a neighborhood that was crumbling around him, with dangerous youth gangs roaming the streets, never fazed him. He wasn't the kind of guy who just up and moved. He had to think about it first for a few decades. Also, he came from a family who didn't like change either, like they'd nail a picture up on the wall in 1946 and that's where it would stay for the next sixty years.

Meanwhile, in my family, my mother spent the sixties repainting, recarpeting, refurbishing. If she ran out of money, she just picked up our furniture and threw it down, like dice, into a new decorating configuration. She could never leave anything alone, except permanent fixtures, like light switches and staircases.

I'm not saying my house isn't great, on the inside. Somehow, in 1993 when we bought it, before we even had kids, we ended up with a house with enough space. Nowadays we use a lot more of that space, but still, we're not squished.

But this great house is plopped on a postage stamp piece of property, and the house takes up most of it. If I reach an arm out the window, I can almost touch my neighbor's house. Our front yards are gravel, like the alleys were back in Chicago. In Arizona this is called "landscaping." Since grass doesn't grow naturally here, our backyard has a combination of dirt and weeds that we like to call a lawn.

So I stalk houses with land. I stalk houses with big kids' bedrooms. I stalk houses with views. I stalk houses in neighborhoods that don't have HOAs. I stalk houses with gigantic laundryrooms that don't have doors to the garage at one end of them. I could settle for a house that had a laundryroom that could actually fit a laundry basket in it.

For right now, I think I'll go rearrange some furniture.

Do you always feel like everything would be perfect if you lived in a different place? Do you live in different circumstances than those you grew up in?

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Marriage Built for Three

First there was the way that she "just liked" our shower better than her own. We figured anything was okay as long as we could get her to take a shower by herself, right?

So suddenly there were Herbal Essence products lined up on the windowsill next to my Redken stuff and Husband's generic cheapo shampoo/conditioner combo product. And bathtoys lined up here and there, filling up the whole shower stall.

And then it was her shower too.

Then there was the way she set up a little pretend office in my office so she could work alongside me each night. A little makeshift desk, a tufted stool, some busy work that involved using reams and reams of all the printer paper in the house.

And then, suddenly, it was her office too.

Finally, she managed to finagle her way into our room each night she was sick - the coughing, the hacking, the miserable Daughter coming out of her room so many times she was a blur. Finally we'd succumb, make up a bed on the floor out of couch cushions, pillows and blankets. Trip over her all night. I catch her in a secret smile. She thinks it's now her bedroom too.

Tonight, the realization. The ten-year-old thinks she's part of this marriage. She has no intention of moving out of our room.

When the kids were little, Husband was firm about no kids in the marital bed. They had bassinets, then cribs in our room, and then one day Husband took the crib, moved it down the hall to the nursery and, just like that, they were out. Living independently. The worst roommates you could ever imagine, but still, they had rooms of their own.

But Daughter apparently doesn't like this living arrangement. She's ready to move back in. She'll use any tool in her arsenal - from hysteria to illness to nightmares - to get back in our room. And she has no interest in Husband. She will step on top of him and leave footprints on his head on her way to me. She wants to merge her soul with mine into a more perfect union. Or, at least, she wants to live on the floor next to me.

But Daughter got her marching papers from Husband a few days ago, when her antibiotic started working. She needs to stay in her room, even if she coughs, even if it takes a while to fall asleep.

Husband and I look at each other as she stalks down the hall, wondering if she'll stay in there. And I think about the more important thing: will I ever get my bathroom back?

How have your kids encroached on your turf? Do you remember doing this as a kid - trying desperately to sleep in your parents' room when you had a nightmare or were sick? What qualifies for a kid to get in there now?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The TV Looks Smashing

Okay, I went to the football game on Sunday. I went, I sat, I ate, I was enthused, I was crestfallen, I stayed till the bitter end.

And I thought, Whew, that wasn't so bad. I'm glad I got that out of the way. Now football is over.

But guess what? Football, apparently is never going to end. There is never enough football.

Before we left for the game, the TV was on in our house - a must-see game. Okay, fine. But certainly once we were done being at the actual game, that would be enough, right?

Well, apparently I don't read minds very well. We came home, on went the TV. There was a Bowl game on - the Soup Bowl, I think. The next day, another Bowl game. And every single day this week, Bowl after Bowl after Bowl. Today is Wednesday. There is a Bowl on TV. Who ever heard of football on a Wednesday?

Normally Husband is such a TV snob that, except for football, he can't stand to have the TV on. The last series we actually followed together and watched on an ongoing basis was Seinfeld. It was a long, long time ago. Because of his TV snobbery, I've missed every major TV show of the last ten years. But for football, he makes an exception.

"Football is real," he tells me. "It's not a bunch of actors spouting lines. This is real drama. You don't know the outcome. It's exciting, things change from minute to minute."

I look at the TV. I see a bunch of top-heavy guys crunching against each other to make their way across a big field of grass.

"Shakespeare is drama," I say. "Not football."

He says, "Anyway, the season's over."

I perk up. "Really?"

"Tomorrow night's the last Bowl game."

"Is that it, then, till the Superbowl?" I am chortling with glee.

"Well, that's it for college football."

Just as I'm about to do a little dance, he continues. "But there are NFL Playoff games every Saturday and Sunday starting this weekend till the SuperBowl."


I glare at him; go back to my office.

The Bearded Stranger

I was driving somewhere with Bar Mitzvahzilla the other day when I looked over at him and I saw not one, not two, but three long, white, meandering hairs growing out of his chin, gleaming in the sunlight.  I said, "What is that?" Then he covered up his chin, refusing to show me. How did those grow there, and grow that long, without me noticing?

We've had our awkward adolescent days. We had last summer when he refused to swim without a shirt on, and I had to wonder what was growing under the shirt. Was it a siamese twin growing out of the side of his body? There are the fangs growing in on both sides of his mouth. There's the routine humiliations of adolescence - the pimples, the braces - things the whole world can see. But a sparse, scraggly, hillbilly-looking blonde beard?

Clearly the fact that this thing exists can be blamed on Husband. Just like I'm always on the look out for Daughter's signs of adolescence ("Do you want a training bra yet? How about now? Now?") it's up to Husband to be on red alert with his responsibilites. He should've noticed scraggly hair number one before it began multiplying. And just because Bar Mitzvahzilla has somehow managed to pop out blonde facial hair in a family of swarthy Jews, that's no excuse for Husband not to notice it.

I grew up watching my dad shave with a double-edged razor and shaving soap in a cup. Because he had a cleft in his chin, each day he'd come away wounded with tiny pieces of toilet paper stuck to all the cuts on his face. Not only would he get wounded, but the minute he was done, right after he'd slapped on his Old Spice, his 5:00 shadow was growing back in, he was that hairy.

I can handle all the nitty gritty discussions with Bar Mitzvahzilla and Daughter about sex, all the generalities about how this works or that, but when it comes down to teaching the boy to shave, Husband's just going to have to take out the stropping blade and teach him. Before scraggly hair number four grows in.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Dunce of a Mom

Daughter is in her fifth day of being sick and today had her second doctor appointment, at which I finally convinced the doctor to put Daughter on an antibiotic. Then I told my mom about it.

My mom loves nothing better than to search and search out a problem and find a solution. The solution to the problem of Daughter being sick was simple: it was because of my shoddy parenting. Everything can always be blamed on me.

She says, "You probably didn't dress her warm enough. That's how she got sick in the first place."

Thanks, mom.

Or, "You didn't feed her enough. She's too skinny. She wouldn't get sick if she weighed more." Okay, that's number two. But since she's starting to rile me up, I'm wondering if it's time to get off the phone yet. Have we talked long enough?

Then I get, "You never should have taken her to the football game yesterday."

Look, if it was up to me, you can bet I would have chosen a day at home with Sick Daughter to a day with eighty thousand screaming and yelling fans at a football stadium, but my mom knows Cheap Husband pretty well by now. There's no way he would willingly say goodbye to $200 on Daughter's unused seat at the game. This is actually outside the realm of possibility.

I'm not saying I'm not a complete dunce of a mother. There are some things that I'm so stupid about that it's scary. I can't put a meal together to save my life. I'm too lenient, constantly wanting to give my kids the childhood I never had by buying it for them. But I know my medical. With nearly lifelong asthma and eighteen years working for a Gigantic Insurance Company, I know my medical. I can diagnose, I can treat. I just can't prescribe or I would've had Daughter on an antibiotic already.

Now that I've been insulted enough, I'm ready to get off the phone, but my mom's not. Before our call ends, she squeezes one more in. One to ruin my week and give me guilt. She says, "You can't send her to school tomorrow. You better keep her home all week."

Thanks, mom. Glad I called.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Drama Queen

Daughter's been sick for a few days. But even though I know it's just a couple days, I'm sure there has to be a better unit of measurement out there - like Dog Years - because each day that Daughter is sick feels like a year. At least to me.

What is it about her and illness? She gets a stomachache and it's absolutely, positively the world's worst stomachache ever and she will not live through it. She lays around moaning and groaning half the day. If she hurts her arm, she gets out a sling; if it's her foot, she gets out a crutch. She's a Drama Queen.

This time her illness is real, not feigned. She has a pretty bad virus. When the doctor's office told me at our emergency Saturday appointment today that it wasn't strep, I was more shocked than Daughter was. But if you take Daughter, add one sore throat, one stuffed head and multiple rounds of sneezing, here's what you get:  a twenty-four-hour a day nag festival.  She can't sleep so I can't sleep. She's going to choke on her swollen tonsils and die if she falls asleep. For sure.

I was a sick little girl at from eleven on. I got asthma very suddenly and it really did end my life as I knew it. I missed half-years of school until we moved to Arizona, and when I did get to school I used to creep around the halfways slowly, my back hunched over like an old lady, no air in my lungs. My mom used to schlep me up to Gurnee, Illinois once a week to the only doctor near Chicago who had a nebulizer machine - the ancestor of the nebulizers people have now. This one took up an entire room. I sat there for an entire afternoon, breathing.

And through all of that I was uncomplaining. I figured everyone had something to bear. In the pediatric asthma offices where I was treated a lot of the kids had horrible, permanent illnesses. I knew, despite the fact that I couldn't breathe, that I had a lot to be grateful for. If I, my mom, and the neaderthal nebulizer could just get my asthma under control, a normal life awaited me. None of that would be true for all these other kids.

Apparently, Daughter does not have the ability to glean the same lesson, certainly not from a virus. Or maybe she's just not seeing sick enough kids in her pediatrician's office. She flomps down on me, miserable and miserably sad for herself. She coughs in my face. She finally goes to sleep.

Friday, January 1, 2010

No-Tell Hotel


When we were away this past week, we had a problem with the first hotel we stayed in, necessitating an immediate switch. 

We didn't know this ahead of time so, in the interest of being comfortable, we got to the hotel and unpacked completely.  And I mean completely. We divided up the dresser drawers, then we filled up the drawers and emptied our suitcases. Daughter lined up her stuffed animals on her bed. I created a makeshift kitchen, even though there was only a refrigerator.

Then, suddenly, because of a heating unit that sounded like an airplane was taking off from our room and Sleep Number beds that left us sleeping in a large, concave hole, we wanted out. So we packed. And we forgot something. My hair shine spray.

I have problematic hair, a big ball of tangled Jewish hair. This hair requires a lot of products to actually look human each day. Since product purchasing or figuring out is actually beyond my capabilities, I've enlisted professionals to help me with this: my hair stylist and my six sisters.  So each day, to transform my hair from what it is - an Interesting Jewish Fur Ball into what I want it to be - Human Hair - I use about ten products, including my shine spray.

So, of course, I go back to the first hotel from the second hotel to see if they found my shine spray. The Interesting Jewish Fur Ball might have been tamed into looking like hair because I have the other nine products but, hey, it's still not shiny. The front desk clerk, who checked us in a few days before, and could best be described previously as possessing lank, dull hair, looks different. She has suspiciously shiny hair. The other front desk clerk also has shiny hair.  I see some Housekeeping staff wheeling a cart by. Shiny hair too.

She asks me for details and disappears for a long time, allegedly looking for my hair spray. Is she going to try to palm me off with some Aqua Net? She comes back empty handed, accompanied by a bustling manager with, of course, shiny hair.

I leave with nothing, the doors to the hotel full of shiny-haired employees swishing shut behind me.