Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The weekend started with me dumping pork and cabbage on my crotch. It got better.

Somehow, the universe managed to align in such a way that Friday afternoon Sam and I got in Henny the Super Cooper and drove to a remote location, alone. Just the two of us.

Notably absent? Our children. All three of them. That includes the baby that still wakes up during the night for feedings.

We were not heading off on an adult getaway to have wild sex and drink heavily like the good old days - we were just excited about sleeping uninterrupted at night, and napping extensively during the day. A huge cooler was packed, full of cheese and bread and chocolate cream pies, because those are the three food groups. It wasn't going to be just us for the weekend - if that were the case, this story would begin and end with: "We went away overnight to catch up on some sleep. It was great." But in addition to sleeping and eating, we were going to be spending the weekend in a rental house on the other end of the island with a bunch of other people. An old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness house party was happening.

But first, we had to get there. So we packed up the car, and stopped for take-out to eat en route. We decided on Kalua pork, and I romantically fed my husband chopstick-fulls of shredded pork and cabbage as he drove along the winding country roads. And then we hit a speed bump and I dropped the entire to-go box upside down in my lap.

It took about 15 minutes to clean up the car, which still smells faintly of roasted pork 4 days later if you must know, and then I was still hungry so we had to stop and get something else to eat, and then I just sat back and enjoyed the excitement of driving along Maui's rugged southeast coast.
It was lovely.

As we approached our destination, we came upon a man lying in the road wearing nothing but a pair of surf trunks. He stood up and approached the car. "Where am I?" he asked.

Now, when someone asks me that question at 5:30 on a Friday night, one of two things are happening:
1. Someone is no longer being served alcohol at my bar
2. I have arrived at my destination

The man continued to approach my car.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Oh, gosh, what a lovely offer. But I'm already married." I stuck my thumb over my shoulder indicating my bewildered husband in the passenger seat.
"Don't worry honey," I turned to Sam and said with a reassuring smile. "This sort of thing happens all the time to women, let me ju-"
The man was now right next to my car. "I love Lucy!" he exclaimed, grinning. I froze. He grabbed my door handle. "Can I have a hug?"
"Fuck no!" I said, and hit the gas leaving him sitting once again in the middle of the road, waving after me half-heartedly. I had a romantic weekend planned, and I didn't need an extra husband to entertain. I already had my hands full.

We don't get away much just the two of us - it's hard to find the time, and even harder to find childcare overnight. This weekend was a very big deal. We planned our escape around this house party - it was our impetus, our inspiration. The house in question is directly across the street from the ocean, and two of the guests just so happen to be professional DJs on island. They brought their gear.

Decor ran to inflatables and barnyard animals, attire included hotpants and some fabulous wigs and tutus. Pasties may or may not have been involved. Pasties made out of spinach. Because someone used all the kale for a tutu. Maybe. I cannot confirm or deny. All I'm saying is, I did have plenty of greens to go with my chocolate pie, bread and cheese. Inspired? You should be. Kale Recipes that kick ass at Serious Eats (via Not Martha)

We also had board games and light reading. This book - seriously NOT PC you have been warned - was my favorite, I think:
This Book Will Change Your Life 

I did not nap, because my tutu was far too itchy for that sort of thing. And there were all sorts of other, better things to do. THERE WAS APPLES TO APPLES FOR GODS SAKE. (If you haven't playedApples to Apples , I insist that you go forth immediately and get you some.)

At 1am, when the games ended and the jello shots ran out, the DJs turned up the music. I think. I can't really be 100% sure, because Sam and I were in the loft sound asleep. That's right. We slept through a dance party.

The following day dawned bright and early. I made bloody marys and tea, and chatted with friends for a while and we all made a big breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs and crepes. There was an attempt to whip cream by hand, but someone got carried away and we ended up with butter. No worries, there was plenty of Nutella to smear all over everything instead. Then I grabbed a cherry ring pop because no one said I couldn't, and Sam and I went for a walk. He was wearing a grass skirt for some reason, and I still had on the tutu, but added a fur vest because it was breezy and I didn't want to catch a chill.


So we took a nice walk, just the two of us, and on the way back I realized that some of the people driving by looked.....concerned. I figured it was because we were walking in the road near a few blind turns, or maybe because I was barefoot. But I had just gotten a tetanus booster, so really, they had nothing to worry about. How sweet of them, though.

When we got back to the house, a decision had been made to go to the beach. I took off my tutu and grabbed a towel, and we headed out. I was thinking that the beach sounded like a great place for a nice nap. Some of us walked, some us roller skated, and I was in the minority without a tutu. I had on a shirt AND pants, and I was decidedly overdressed. But again, IT WAS BREEZY. I was perfectly content in my flannel and leggings. My only regret is that I forgot my camera for this little excursion.

My other regret is that we ran into one of the kids' teachers on the walk back to the house.

It was like the real world crashed my house party.
And they did not bring a tutu.

Seeing Max's teacher was a sobering experience. I had two helpings of chocolate cream pie in an attempt to forget that I had children and grownup responsibilities waiting for me at home. It was no use - the spell had been broken. And it was time to leave anyway.

So we missed out on the Alice in Wonderland croquet tournament, and the Tutus and Tribal dance party.
We drove home slowly, mostly in silence, just savoring the view and the quiet that surrounded us. We got out a few times to stretch our legs.

The spell may have been broken, but it was still magical.

(note: all Amazon links are connected to my Amazon Associates Account. Also magical.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break. Thank God that's over.

The kids were home all of last week, and I was home with them.
It went just fine, WHY DO YOU ASK?

There are few things I enjoy less than the times when I feel like an impatient, un-fun mom. And this spring break was heavy on the impatience, and light on the fun.

I want to be the mom who is spontaneous and creative, and let the kids run wild while I look cute and bake cookies and make playdough and all the while the house looks relatively pulled together and something delicious is cooking on the stove. At times like this, when I am home with the kids and feeling uninspired and overwhelmed, I remember my grandmother's house, and how huge it was (a good thing, with 7 kids living at home simultaneously) and how it always felt like we had just walked into a party in full swing every time we pushed open the massive front door, mostly because there were always about 20 kids in the house at any one time. There were chandeliers and big windows and they had all of these great antique couches with carved claw feet and deep wide seats with down cushions. White cushions. How in the name of god did she have light-colored sofas with a half-dozen kids? Remind me to ask her about that. I wish we still had some of those couches.
I am going to find one, somewhere.
Maybe then I'll feel more "together".

On second thought, probably not.

I do not live in a huge house - I live in a small house with small rooms and low ceilings. It makes me crazy. It makes me crazier now that Dude has taken up residence in our living room. It makes me craziest when the kids are home with me for a week and we don't have anything specific planned. When we spend entire mornings, straight through until the afternoon, lying around in our pajamas, ignoring the gorgeous Maui day outside. It's such a waste. As someone born and raised in New England with it's crappy winters and muddy springs, I feel massive amounts of guilt if my kids are inside during the day when it's so gorgeous out - I feel like they should be outside enjoying the weather.

Or pooper-scooping.

Can't it be both?

I would send them outside, but I frequently need help identifying which things are dirty enough to warrant cleaning. Like, the pair of pants on your bedroom floor. Are they dirty? Is that mud, or skid marks? Please don't make me investigate - just turn them right side out and draw your own conclusions. And what about this towel here? Why is it wet? What did you clean with this towel? Your hair? The toilet? Do I need to bleach it? Throw it away? Put it back under the sink?
A few days ago, I spent 15 minutes studying the contents of dishwasher to determine if the contents were clean or dirty. I had to call in Max for his assessment. We held spoons up to the light, sniffed plates, ran our fingers across pans looking for grease.

(We found some. They were totally dirty.)

The bathroom is also dirty.

It's not just dirty because it needs to be cleaned (it gets cleaned all the time) it's dirty because my son is rapidly approaching teenager-dom and may I just say that pre-teen boys are gross. He is currently paying me 25 cents every time he leaves the seat up. I am about to raise my rate, because he keeps doing it. I need to really make my point. That's it. Next week, it's going to cost him a dollar if he leaves the seat up in my bathroom. And I really wish he'd stop bringing toys in there with him. Because A.) Gross. It's just gross. and B.) I keep stepping on them in the dark (who expects to find a lego car on the rug in front of the toilet? Not this girl.) and C.) I don't want to encourage him to spend any more time in there than is absolutely necessary. You want to soak in the bath for hours? Great, go for it. You want to sit on the toilet for an hour? Hemorrhoids. Get in, get 'er done, get out. Hit it and quit it.

But kids can keep themselves entertained in the bathroom indefinitely. There is running water, stuff to sniff, cabinets and drawers to investigate, great acoustics, and plenty of privacy. For the most part I am fine with it. I don't want anyone to develop a complex. And I like my bathroom time too. In fact, I was just about to enjoy my own quiet bathroom time - I had turned on the shower and thrown my clothes in the hamper when I spotted the golf ball-sized thing on the ground, and found my personal limit for bathroom shenanigans.

Upon closer inspection, I surmised that it was a small, balled up hunk of wet toilet paper sitting there on the floor - between two perfectly appropriate recepticles. To the left, the toilet - seat up! THAT WILL BE ONE DOLLAR. To the right, the bathroom wastebasket. Empty.

I did what any mother would do. I stood there, and yelled. And when they heard the yell, and realized that they were probably the cause of aforementioned yelling, they leapt up and raced to the bathroom to fix whatever they had screwed up before I charged them another dollar from their rapidly draining piggy banks. In their haste they threw open the closed - but not locked - door (because a closed door merely presents the illusion of privacy, but the click of the lock alerts them to your location and the fact that you are, for all intents and purposes - cornered, which is their cue to come and talk to you ad nauseum about playdates and quote lines from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles verbatim and ask you to make a snack) and were confronted by their mother, me, standing there naked. Only now I wasn't yelling. I was screaming.

Whereupon they also began to scream. And cover their eyes, and try to reverse out of the bathroom and undo the last 30 seconds of their life, falling over themselves like puppies while I tried to shield my naked self with the shower curtain and switch from yelling about the balled up wet toilet paper on the floor to yelling about opening a closed door without knocking first and being invited inside. WERE THEY RAISED BY WOLVES?

Welcome to spring break 2012. Staycations - why travel when we have all the fun we can stand RIGHT HERE AT HOME

Friday, March 16, 2012

Humble Pie: the true tale of how I screwed up my grandmother's pie recipe and will have to live with that shame forever

I make really bad lemon meringue pie.

I thought I had this, man. I thought I could do it. But it turns out trying to make a lemon meringue pie in the 45 minute window before you have to leave for ballet, while the baby sits and screams in his bouncy seat and the phone is ringing off the hook with clients IS A VERY BAD IDEA INDEED.

Pie - good pie - cannot be rushed. I know this now. And honestly, I think that my pie-making experience was Grandmother telling me to slow the hell down and get back on that ADD medication.

I have never been a baker, because I do not have the patience. Souffles deflate, cookies burn, cakes stick to their pans, I use baking powder and baking soda interchangeably like they are the same damn thing, and I frequently forget to set the timer. But Wednesday - Pi(e) Day - was going to be the day I conquered that frontier. I was going to make a kick-ass homage to my beloved grandmother, in lemon meringue form.

And in honor of my other grandmother, Sarah brought a bottle of white wine. Dude also drinks white.
Coincidence? I think not. She also brought a bag of Mini Eggs - both to keep my energy up, and also (as it turned out) as an emergency back-up plan for dessert.

a bottle of white for everyone

I gathered the ingredients. I carefully chose a glass pie pan. I found two marble tiles (leftover from an epic cheese board friends made us for an anniversary party) on which to prepare the pastry. I even had some fancy-pants chain of tiny metal balls that are specifically for weighing down pie crusts when they are pre-baked. I was going to make the best damn pie EVER. With the recipe on my laptop, and Sarah and Max dictating step by step what I was supposed to do, I began.

Within 30 seconds flour had been flung far and wide across my kitchen counter, water was running everywhere, and I was covered in goop that decidedly looked nothing like the step-by-step illustrated instructions. "You're doing fine." Sarah encouraged me. "Just don't work it too much."
"What's too much? Fuck, this is a disaster." I was already aggravated.
"You're doing fine! Keep going. Form the dough into a ball. But I gotta tell you - the next step is to chill for two hours."

As my friend Boss would say, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

TWO HOURS? Who the HELL has two hours?
Not this girl.
I chilled it for about an hour, during which time Sarah had to leave and the baby woke up.
This was not going as planned.
When I took it out, I could already tell something was wrong.

But while I was waiting for it to chill I cleaned my counter!

I had 45 minutes to figure this out, so I soldiered onward and completed my mission in the time allotted, but I'm not gonna lie. My pie crust had the taste and consistency of shoe leather. Salty, vaguely slimy shoe leather. It may have had something to do with my rolling. I think I used too much pressure.

Do you see how I am white-knuckling the rolling pin?
That's not good. Don't do that.

The pie weights certainly didn't do anything to improve the situation.

Pie weights are a total scam, apparently.
The crust bubbled up all around the weights, it took longer to cook,
and it STILL tasted like crap. Boo.

When the pie came out of the oven, it looked beautiful. I convinced myself it was going to taste amazing despite all of my misgivings.

Beautiful, right? My grandmother was totally smiling down on me.

Yeah, well. Looks can be deceiving.

W. T. F. was the phrase of the day.

We still ate it, of course. My friends and family gamely chewed away at the crust, hoping that they just got a bad spot. But it was all bad. And the filling was liquid. The meringue was gorgeous, though!

(Max did that part. I'm not gonna lie.)

I plan to try again. I WILL NOT GO DOWN LIKE THAT. But I'm going to use a boxed crust next time, to take some of the pressure off. And I am going to work on my pastry technique. I have a long list of recipes to try, and a huge can of Crisco. For making pie crust. And other things.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My grandmother's pi(e) is better than Your my grandmother's pi(e)

This Wednesday, March 14th, is Pi(e) Day.
(Because it's 3.14)
(Get it?!)
(I didn't really get it either, don't worry. But I guess it makes sense to some math-y people out there.)

In honor of Pi(e) Day, I am going to strike an item off of my Top Five Life List. This is very exciting news INDEED as my Life List is practically moulding from sitting on the shelf in this humid climate. Back in November at Camp Mighty I chose a few things for my Top Five that were stretches, to say the least. And to balance it out I chose a few that I considered "do-able" - not lofty or far-fetched, something I could complete when I was feeling overwhelmed or underachieved. Which pretty much sums up December-March this year.

So, time to make some fucking pie. My grandmother's lemon meringue pie, to be precise. (Precision! For all those math-y people!) When I wrote about this in November, Jen said "Idea: what if you posted your grandma's recipe and several of us, around the world, made it on the same day and ate it together? And then toasted your grandma? And then blogged about the experience of making it and told stories of our own grandmas?" Jen, I love you. And I think that is a rad idea. Let's put on our best aprons and make some grandma magic, shall we? Everyone, I want to hear about your pie, and your grandmothers. Sarah is going to be here to hold my hand and beat the egg whites into submission while I sniffle into a tissue and think about my grandmother.

I have two grandmothers, actually. My paternal grandmother is an accomplished home chef, of the enormous casserole and lots of wine variety. She had a gorgeous gourmet kitchen filled with le Creuset and a professional Viking range/grill/double oven thing that took up an entire 6 foot long section of wall. She cooked for masses of people, and she did it with style. And a bottle of white wine. Sometimes, a box of white. Depends on the holiday and level of chaos. Love you Grammie! But she was not a baker, really. I don't remember a lemon meringue pie at her house - unless my other grandmother brought it over.

The grandmother in question - the pie baker - is my maternal grandmother, Mabel. Mebs for short. I grew up around the corner from her house, and I wear her wedding rings as my own. I think of her every single day of my life. Mebs was not a home chef - she had a very basic kitchen filled with very basic ingredients, and I don't remember her drinking wine except at church. She cooked most food until it was almost inedible DONE if you know what I mean. But oh, her pies.

Mebs made pies for almost every holiday. It is a huge part of my childhood memories, pies cooling on the kitchen table while I sat on the stepstool under the wall phone eating whipped cream off the beaters. She passed away during my sophomore year of high school, and her loss was - is - something that causes me unspeakable amounts of sorrow. I mean, I honestly can't even really talk about it out loud, so I am going to write about it for a minute and we'll see if I can pull it together afterwards to make some pie. Okay, tissues. Here we go.

Some back story. The women in my family live until basically forever. They are the hardiest, nuttiest women - and I had THREE great-grandmothers around when I was growing up. All three were bat-shit crazy, with varying degrees of sweetness to temper the old lady-ness. Mebs' mother - Also named Mabel - lived to be 106 or something ridiculous like that, and until she was 98 Mabel tore around town in a Dodge Dart with the celing panel hanging down over her head. She was about 4 feet tall, and sat on a stack of pillows to get high enough to see through the middle of the steering wheel and peer over the dashboard. She was always called "Great Grandmother" - no cute nicknames, and certainly not "Mebs" - Mabel was all business and showed no signs of slowing down. The phrase "tough old bird" pretty much describes her to a T. And her daughter, my grandmother Mebs, while more refined and much less insane, was also not showing any signs of slowing down. At 80 she was still picking us up from school in her Grand Prix, rocking the high heels, and handing out Cinnamint Lifesavers to anyone who asked, or needed one. I had no doubt that my grandmother would outlive her mother by a good 25 years.

Until she didn't.

My great grandmother Mabel fell in the bathroom one day and broke her hip. She was discovered on the floor of the bathroom several hours later by Mebs, who promptly called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, and the EMTs were talking with Mebs about her mother, and loading my great grandmother into an ambulance, my beloved grandmother Mebs had a stroke. A second ambulance was called.

It was probably the single most chaotic day for that retirement complex ever, and there was a lot of confusion because two elderly women arrived at the hospital via ambulance within 10 minutes of each other, from the same address, with the same first name. My great-grandmother was probably complaining loudly about everything, and being a real pain in the ass. Mebs had been rendered silent by the stroke. She never spoke again. She hung on, paralyzed and silent, for how long I honestly cannot remember (and I need to keep it that way for my own mental well-being). In the end, probably because she knew she would live another 25 years trapped in that silent, paralyzed body, stuck in a nursing home with terrible food, in a room that always smelled of adult diapers and desperation instead of lily of the valley and lavender sachets, Mebs took control of the situation in the only way she knew how. She stopped eating. I do not remember when she died, and only vaguely remember her funeral. I know I was 15. I was also drunk for the entire weekend and stayed out for most of the night wandering Haley Farm with a boy. My grandmother must have kept a close eye on me from where ever it is that she was, and  made sure I got home safe and sound eventually which was a damn miracle consdering the circumstances, my mental state, and the company I was keeping. The entire weekend is a blur, and I am glad - who the hell wants to remember losing one of the people they loved most?

I want to remember her baking pies, and teaching me how to whip cream and later how to make meringue (which she only showed me how to do once before the stroke). She cooked meat until it was gray, and veggies until they were limp, but the woman made the most amazing pies and damnit her legacy needs to live on. And so, we are all going to make lemon meringue pies.

Yes, even you.
We can do this.

I will be using my grandmother's recipe, which is in her 4th edition, 1952 copy of Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. I have her notes in the margins, and I will share them with you because my grandmother would want me to. This cookbook is something I treasure, something I would rescue in a fire. It has her handwritten notes, odd pieces of mail, and recipes clipped out of magazines. It is a time capsule for me.

1/4 cup cornstarch and 2 Tbs flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3 eggs separated
1/3 cup strained lemon juice
2 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
baked pie shell
1/3 cup sugar

Blend cornstarch, flour, sugar and salt in saucepan. Add boiling water gradually and blend thoroughly. Cookk over direct heat, stirring constantly, until thick and clear (about 3 minutes). Beat egg yolks (my grandmother's note says to add the lemon juice to the yolks) and add some of the hot mixture to slowly begin to warm the yolks so that they don't cook too quickly. Pour back into saucepan and stir to blend, cooking for two minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter and lemon rind, mixing well. Pour into cooled pie shell. Set aside to cool.

Beat egg whites, until stiff, adding sugar gradually, continue beating until thick and smooth. Pile lightly and quickly on top of the pie filling right to the edge of the crust. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until meringue is lightly browned, then let cool on a rack completely before cutting. (The pie was the first thing my grandmother made on a holiday, so it cooled all day long while she prepared the rest of the meal.)

A step by step journal will appear here later, and if you choose to make a pie in honor of Mebs, please let me know - I would love to hear how it turned out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Fine Art of Communicating with an Artist. A skill I am sadly lacking.

I got a bad haircut the other day.

I mean, it was a fine haircut, I guess. It was a little uneven, but I can get over that. It's just..... it wasn't what I wanted. It wasn't what I asked for. I asked for a trim, and looked away for a moment and the next thing I know the stylist had grasped a very sizable chunk of hair right on top of my head, and then, in slow motion, she. cut. it. off.

Everyone who has ever gotten a bad haircut knows that one, fleeting moment when you watch the scissor slice through a huge chunk of hair and you think to yourself:
"what the hell......."

And by then, of course, it's too late.
I mean, what are the options?
A. Stand up and dramatically throw your cape to the ground and storm out (awesome but impractical)
B. Say "WAIT! What are you doing?" (which will only make them nervous or offend them - either of which will virtually guarantee that there is no chance for a positive outcome)
C.  Say "Can we go a little longer/shorter/lighter/darker" and hope that they can get back on track without making them nervous or offending them
D. Sit there silently and pray to god that they have some sort of vision of where they are going with this, a vision that you do not see
E. Burst into tears

I usually choose the sit and pray method, which is just about as effective as the "pull and pray" method.
Which is to say not effective at all.
I just cannot bring myself to question someone's creative process, lest they feel that I am being critical. I know what you are saying, and yes. Maybe I have the right to be critical about what a stylist is doing to my head - but I'm not there yet. Which is why I am now growing out a bad haircut. I have grown out this exact same bad haircut before in 2002. And 2006. I know where this is going, and I am not happy about it. I'm facing about 2 months of looking like a chia pet.

But there is a bright side to ths very dark tale. A silver lining to the cloud. It may be because of this bad haircut that I was able to stand up for myself a few weeks ago when I went to get a tattoo.

My first tattoo, in 1998, was flash. "Flash" means I picked a generic illustration off the wall in a tattoo studio, a tattoo studio which was located in a trailer across the street from Stop and Shop.

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

I had someone put an illustration on my body - an illustration I will have on my body forever - that I chose in 5 minutes, off a sheet of paper taped to the fake wood paneled wall of a trailer in the parking lot of a decrepit shopping center. The illustration I chose had a number, I gave that number to a very scary looking man, and he found the coordinating tattoo in a book, and then he gave me that tattoo, just like the picture showed.

I ordered that tattoo like some people order an extra value meal.

But at least there weren't any surprises.

I don't do that anymore. I am now pretty clear on the fact that anything I have drawn on my body should be original. Should reflect something about me, my life, my experiences.....these days I get custom tattoos. I meet with the artist, discuss what I want, they draw something up, I review it and approve it, and then I get a tattoo. This means that I have other people's art on my body - and I am okay with that. I am not an artist. If I had my drawings tattooed on my body, it would be like a horrible, horrible game of Pictionary. Which is why I commission original art to be tattooed. (Bonus - I don't have to get it framed or try to hang it on the wall only to have the nail fall out because I don't know how to anchor things in drywall. Because these things happen when I try to hang art.)

Last week I took my brand new really awful haircut down to the tattoo shop to see the drawings for my new tattoo. I was so excited. I had met with the artist, and sent pictures, and then called and talked with her again over the phone. We had sketched out the general shape on my body. She had done another tattoo for me 10 years ago, and I had seen a lot of work in her portfolio that seemed to evoke the style and spirit I was going for with this latest piece. I had given her a general idea and some samples of what I liked, and then stepped back to give her some space to create something unique. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew her work and trusted her implicitly.

So when I got to the shop and was handed what I can only describe as an incredibly generic design that was about to be put on my body forever, I froze.

I had to make a decision.
I had to figure out a way to say no, or I was going to have a very large tattoo that was absolutely not what I had asked for, and not what I wanted, covering a very large part of my body. You can grow out a haircut, but you cannot grow out a tattoo.

The last thing I wanted to do was offend this artist. Well, the next to last thing.
The very last thing I wanted was to have that drawing tattooed on my body.

So I stood there, and my jaw was working, and I put my hand to my newly shorn head and I thought and thought and thought and the panic rose in my throat and finally I just said "Uh. It's not exactly what I had in mind."

And God bless her, she didn't get offended.
And I didn't get a tattoo.

The moral of the story is, say something BEFORE you are in a chair and someone is standing over you with a sharp object that will change your appearance forever. Because you are the one who has to live with the results.
You damn well better like them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Today someone thought I was a grandma. I did not punch her. I'm just as surprised as you are.

Dude and I have been feeling poorly.

I, of course, have the mange on my face.
Dude has a respiratory infection.

We've been to the clinics and the ER a few times, and neither of us has slept or eaten much. I ended up getting so dehydrated that I brought on a migraine. Dude, meanwhile, has developed a cough that went from old man smoker cough, to a sound akin to breathing through a wet sponge. When I brought him to the ER for the second time in as many days, a very sweet intake nurse was filling out paperwork and assessing his vitals.

"Any health conditions?" she asked as she filled out the form with Dude's name.

"Well, he had significant prenatal crystal meth exposure, and a low birth weight." I volunteered.

"Okay. And you were here yesterday?"

"Yep, but I had to bring him back. I can't use my best judgement - he's not my kid, so whenever I have a concern, I need to have a professional make the call."

She stopped writing for a second. "What do you mean, he's not yours?"

"He's my foster child." I explained.

"Oh. You're not mom?"

I looked down at the very round, very Asian baby in my lap. "Uh, no. I also didn't do crystal meth when I was pregnant." I was horrified.

"It's more common than you think." she replied, as though I was being incredibly naive and narrow-minded.

She went back to writing, and I sat there, with my mouth agape. I mean, I know I haven't slept much lately, and maybe I'm not as sharp as usual, but if I was working intake and a woman showed up at the hospital holding a baby of a completely different race, explaining that the baby was exposed to crystal meth in utero, I would not draw the automatic conclusion that she was the biological mother. At the very least, I would ask a few more questions. But that is very narrow-minded of me, I guess.

But regardless of our relationship, and my alleged drug abuse, Dude and I were a team. We paced back and forth in the room they put us in - a private room with a real door instead of a privacy curtain, and a toilet and sink. We had ourselves a suite! Dude fussed and cried and then slept, only to wake up and go back to fussing and crying again. Every so often we did a breathing treatment, got a shot, or talked to one of the ER staff. They admitted Dude sometime around midnight. He and I spent a glorious night few hours sleeping in the ER's palatial isolation room suite - until 2am when they woke us up, got us out of bed, made us walk to the pediatrics unit, stripped Dude naked and changed him into a diaper that was too small, forgot to secure both diaper tabs, and then lay him down - whereupon he immediately had a huge blowout and poop ended up everywhere. I paged the nurse, we changed Dude and the bed, and I started bagging up the last of his clothes. I had nothing else for him to wear. The kid was going to have to go home naked.

It was now 3am, I was cold and tired and hungry, Dude was pissed, and both of us wanted to be left alone. Alas it was not to be - time after time, a staff member's arrival was signaled by turning on the overhead light. This was made worse by the fact that 50% of the time, they were looking for the patient that had been moved out of the room overnight. So not only did they wake us up by turning on the light, they then called out the wrong name, and looked confused when they pulled back the curtain and found the two of us blinking sleepily.

As dawn rose and light began to glow through the blinds, Dude and I were wide awake, watching a marathon presentation of a show about realtors with million dollar listings in LA. We were entranced. The estates! The cars! The cat fights!

Suddenly, the door swung open and another of the countless tiny Filipino nurses on the floor came in. Side note: I am not being racist - We were seen by 6 or 7 nurses on the pediatric floor - one of them was not Filipino. I don't know why so many of the nurses are Filipino, I don't do the hiring at our hospital - all I can tell you is that a lot of the staff is made up of tiny Filipino ladies. It is very strange, and sometimes I feel like I am actually in a hospital in another country. At 5'8" I tower over much of the staff, and only understand about 3/4 of what they say to me. Unless I am coming out of anesthesia, or they are wearing a mask, in which case I understand practically nothing.

"Oooooh, goood marning!" she said cheerfully. "Are you grandma?"

Please god, tell me I am not understanding what she just said. Because it sounded an awful lot like- "............uh. No. Not grandma."

"Oooooooh, okay. So, when you give bath?"

"When do I what?" I was so stunned by the grandma bit, I wasn't really paying attention to anything that came after that.

"What time you give baby bath?" She repeated herself slowly and loudly, because clearly I was an idiot. And a grandparent. Us old people get confused a lot. You have to talk real slow and loud for us to understand.

"I didn't give him a-"

"Noooooooo." She gave me a big fake smile. Because I was so stupid. And she was humoring me, you see.
"At home. What time you usually give bath at home?"

"Oh, um, it depends. Sometimes at night, but lately it's been in the morning before we leave." I left out the "for his visitations because otherwise his father sniffs him and then reports me for not cleaning his neck well enough" part because, frankly, I didn't want to get into it. Did she just call me grandma?

"Ooooooh. That's good! No bath at night, don't get head wet. That when baby get sick!"

"That when.... what?"

"Give bath at night, it too cold, baby get sick then."

I sat there with my mouth hanging open. What the hell was going on? I reached over to the bedtable, trying to find my glasses so I could examine her ID more closely. This was a nurse? What kind of nurse? What kind of school teaches nurses to avoiding bathing children at night so they don't get sick? Was I in the twilight zone? Or Candid Camera? Did a medical professional just come in my hospital room, call me grandma and then tell me not to get my baby's head wet at night? DID THIS REALLY JUST HAPPEN?

Or maybe it's just the crystal meth talking. Gosh, it's hard to keep these things straight.

(We did get released later that morning, and continue our recovery at home with a nebulizer. And hair dye. These gray hairs are obviously confusing people.)