Saturday, April 28, 2012

I shouldn't feel embarrassed, but it's hard not to.

It happened again.

It's the third night in a row, always the same.

I wake up at 1am wrapped in a blanket that is completely soaking wet, heavy across my chest, clinging to my skin in the cool night air. My head rests on a pillow that is lumpy and sour, absorbing everything like a sponge. I feel trapped. Claustrophobic. I stand, and sweat puddles at my feet, running from my collarbone straight down my stomach, trickling from the backs of my knees along my calves to my ankles, my hair dripping onto my shoulders and rivulets coursing down my back.

It is disorienting, to wake in this state. You know those dreams you had as a kid (or when you were in college, or last week......whatever, who the hell am I to judge) where you dream you are in the bathroom peeing and you wake up and find you wet the bed in your sleep? I feel like I am in the shower. I stand for a moment, swaying slightly, trying to get my bearings in the dark with Sam and the baby snoring softly and the breeze rustling the blinds.

All I want to do is go back to bed. I am so tired. But my bed is........not usable. At least, my side of the bed isn't. I stand there a moment longer, embarrassed, frustrated, disgusted, drained. I lick my lips, which feel as dry and parched as my throat. Water is beaded on my upper lip just below my nose.


Fumbling my way across the hallway to the linen closet, I pull out a bathmat and a beach towel. Back in the bedroom, I peel back the blanket from my side of the bed. I spread the bathmat out over my mattress. I dry myself off the best I can with the beach towel, then try to wrap it around myself enough to keep me from shivering. It's a cool night, and there is a breeze. Goosebumps are prickling my arms. My damp hair is clinging to my neck. I lay down quietly, trying not to disturb Sam. He woke up last night and tried to help, but I was so self-conscious.....I just hope he sleeps through this time around. I catch myself holding my breath, listening to make sure his breathing is still slow and steady. Eventually, I stop shivering and fall asleep.

The  baby wakes at 3. I sit up, disoriented again. Still. At least I'm not dripping. I reach for my bathrobe, which is clean and dry thank god. I wrap the flannel around my waist and hurry over to the bassinet. Sam stirs and rolls over. Close - but not all the way over - to my side of the bed. I wince, hoping he doesn't go any further towards the center of our mattress. Praying he won't wrap his arms around me and bury his face in the back of my neck when I come back to bed.

I change the baby in the dark, warm a bottle, rock him back to sleep. I creep back to our room, holding my breath again. I slide onto the bathmat gingerly, and pull the bath towel around my shoulders, hoping for another hour or two of sleep.

Just after dawn, I drag myself out of bed feeling dehydrated and sort of dizzy, pulling the bathmat off my mattress and unwinding the beach towel from my shoulders as I go, throwing them in the hamper and then stripping the bed of the sheets and blankets as I wait for the shower to get hot. I am going to have to wash my pillow again. The comforter too. Maybe the mattress pad should just be thrown out.

I study myself in the mirror, my eyes puffy and my face shiny, one cheek is creased from the towel, the texture from the bathmat impressed upon my hip and shoulder.

You know, when you hear about hot flashes and night sweats, you probably think you know what it entails. I  know I thought I did. I read the books. I knew what I was getting into. A little overheated. Flushed. Easy to deal with - sleep with light blanket instead of a heavy quilt. Wear layers that you can take on and off. Open a window. Use a fan.

It's not like that.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

6 things you really need to teach your kids RIGHT NOW

Today I was in the shower, minding my own damn business, when I noticed something. A piece of something. A piece of something stuck to the wall, there. Right on the tile.

Hm. I bent closer. It was low, a few inches above my knee over in the corner. As I got closer and peered through the shower spray, I realized that there was another.......something. Stuck there. On the tile.

And then, a little higher. Another spot. What was that? I reached out (even though every fiber of my being was screaming "DO NOT DO THIS") and gingerly touched one of these......things.

And then, my hand shot back. I knew what this was.


Someone had stuck buggers on the shower wall. Someone had gotten into a nice hot steamy shower and began to relax in the warm water and then, one thing led to another and THEY STUCK THEIR FINGER IN THEIR NOSE, PULLED OUT A BUGGER AND STUCK IT ON THE WALL.

I gagged. I washed my hand. I scrubbed my hand with body scrub. I climbed out of the shower soaking wet and went over to the laundry closet and pulled out the bathroom cleaner and got down n my knees and scrubbed the wall of the shower like I was trying to clean my SOUL. Like, my life depended on getting that shit off of that tile and making sure that it was well and truly gone. Like if I scrubbed hard enough I might scrub the memory from my brain.

This is not the first time I have found snot in inappropriate places. It damn well better be the last.

So as I squatted there with the shower beating down on my back, scrubbing frantically at the tiles and muttering under my breath, I began to think of other disgusting habits that I want to make sure I break my children of before they leave my direct supervision and go off into this great big world as an example of my parenting.

1. Snot goes in a tissue. Or a hankie if that's your thing (but it is definitely not mine *shudder*). Or some other appropriate place. Not your clothing, the wall, the floor, or any other damn spot you find convenient. You blow your nose into something, and then you get rid of it. You do not display it for all the world to see. And while we're at it, feel free to excuse yourself and go blow your nose in private. I don't need to listen to you clear your sinuses, thanks.

2. The toilet seat is always left in the closed position. This is imperative. I work in an office that has a communal half bathroom right off the reception room. There is no stall, it is just a toilet and sink. All day long, people use that bathroom. It is located not 5 feet from where I sit and work all day. And yet they see absolutely nothing wrong with leaving the seat up, the light (and exhaust fan) on, and maybe even a paper towel on the floor. I find myself compulsively turning off the light and closing the door, but I just cannot bring myself to lower the toilet seat. A lady shouldn't have to do such things. It is unbecoming. And it should go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: wash your hands every time you use the bathroom.

3. Brush your teeth before you leave the house. Please. For the love of god. It's not just the stinky breath. (Although the stinky breath is really gross.) It's the fact that having dirty teeth - just the very concept of having scummy, unbrushed teeth, is absolutely disgusting. Sometimes I can SEE the stuff on people's teeth. I'm not talking about "Hey, you got a piece of spinach stuck there". I"m talking about YOUR TEETH ARE DIRTY GO BRUSH THEM. And when you're done? RINSE THE SINK. I am tired of seeing the bright blue smears of toothpaste every time I wash my hands. Which is every time I use the bathroom, by the way.

4. Clear your dirty dishes from the table. Unless you plan on leaving me a tip - cash only - I expect you to bring your dishes to the sink or where ever you are directed to leave them. Every time. Same goes for eating in a public space like a food court where they provide you with a tray to carry your food to the table. If you eat a meal, if you have a snack, if you drink a glass of WATER you had best clear your place and return the empty plate/bowl/glass/container/tray to the appropriate place. And the silverware too. And your napkin.
You don't use a napkin?

Were you raised by wolves? USE A NAPKIN.

5. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Eventually we will move on to do your own damn laundry, but frankly their father hasn't quite gotten that one down yet and has ruined so many of my clothes that he is now terrified to operate the washing machine. He certainly never puts anything in the dryer anymore. And it's better that he doesn't, because after replacing a few cashmere sweaters we decided it was a very expensive way to "help". But if there is one thing I cannot stand, it is finding a pair of damp, dirty, balled up socks on the floor just inside the back door. Or next to the couch. Or in my car. Or the pair of pajama pants on the floor outside of the shower. Or in a heap on the floor in front of the toilet. Both of which are mere feet away from the hamper. And while you're in there? Wash your hands.

6. Take care of your sheets and towels. While we are on the subject of laundry, there is a spirited debate about how often one needs to wash sheets and towels. When they smell? When they are visibly dirty? When they have lost that fresh feeling? Weekly? Monthly? Daily? When you have company coming? This topic is important to me. Important as a woman who has broken up with men because of their dirty sheets.

There are ground rules. Always having clean sheets and towels for company is obvious. Washing your sheets and towels regularly is imperative whether you have company or not. Haven't you seen the investigative news shows with the blacklight in the motel room? That shit gets nasty. Wash it. My mom used to strip the beds and wash the sheets every Sunday. Including the mattress pad. It was a nice little ritual to start the week with fresh sheets and towels. And between washes, your damp towel should be hung (preferably across a towel bar) so that it can dry thoroughly. Otherwise, bacteria will flourish and you will basically get dirty all over again (possibly dirtier than before you showered) as soon as you towel off. Living in the tropics, we wash towels frequently. Maybe not every time we use them, but frequently.

Even more important than washing your OWN sheets and towels, is washing the ones you use at someone else's house. When staying in someone's home, offer to strip the bed and collect all of your towels and other linens, and ask your host if you may wash them before you go. It's just the nice thing to do - after all you are a guest in their home. If they don't have a washer and dryer, all the more reason to make the offer - bring them to the laundromat down the block and drop them off - paying for the wash yourself of course.

I think that if my kids can master these basic concepts, they will move through life without embarrassing me completely. There is more, of course. Much more. These are just a half-dozen things I have realized (some more recently than others) are important.

Because it is important not to be gross.

Monday, April 23, 2012

And THIS is why people don't invite me places.

So. I have been.....tired lately.

The fatigue caught up with me last Friday, and that is how it came to be that I found myself asleep in a friends front yard in a floor length peach monstrosity of a dress, and a bonnet, at 3 in the afternoon. (Or thereabouts. I sort of lost track of time, there.....) For several days, little pieces of the story have come together in my fuzzy mind, and I have done my best to record them in a coherent manner. It would probably have been easier had I actually been coherent at the time these events transpired but hey, I have to work with what I've got. To start with, it is important to note that I tend to forget to eat. Or drink. Or pee (though there isn't as much need for that, with the whole no drinking thing). I also threw my back out last week, so I have been taking some medication that makes me even more tired than usual. I am not making excuses, mind you, just giving you a little background on how it all went down. at least, as much as I can remember.

My girlfriends were having a luncheon garden party on 4/20 (turns out that was just a coincidence, but no one told me that until it was much too late). There was a contest for the best outfit, a scavenger hunt and trivia game, and it looked very promising in the food and drink department. "Come hungry!" they instructed. No problem, I'm always hungry. So I skipped breakfast and lunch, arrived 20 minutes late and absolutely starving, and then spent 10 minutes trying to negotiate the gate at the top of the driveway.

First I checked to be sure it did not involve electricity (it didn't) by calling for further instructions because what the fuck, is there a secret password or something? No, my friend explained, no electricity, no code, the taffeta wrapped around the gatepost was hiding the clip that was holding the gate closed. BECAUSE OF COURSE I SHOULD HAVE UNWRAPPED THE TAFFETA.

sidenote: I love everything about gated entries. I aspire to one day have a property that requires (or allows for) a front gate, just so I can fuck with my house guests. (Oh, the gate? I forgot to mention that? Just type in the code. Still no? Well, let me send Jeeves to let you in. YOU SIMPLETON.)

Instead of just leaving my car in the driveway and climbing over the gate, I listened to the instructions as they were relayed to me over the phone, unwrapped the taffeta, found the clasp, unclipped the chain, swung open the gate, drove through the second (springloaded) gate like I was at a car wash, flinching and grimacing as I gingerly pushed it open as instructed with my front bumper, letting it drag across the hood of my car and up over the roof sloooooowly, and then I rolled carefully down the hill on high alert for the roaming equines that necessitated this level of gated security.

I parked on the lawn after checking to make sure it was clear of horses.
And horseshit.

I dragged my prom/bridesmaid thrift store gown from the back of my car, located my bonnet on the floor, and dug out some lipstick in the glove box that was only partly melted. I was ready to party.

But first I had to get changed.

In hindsight, it would have been wise to try on the gown before I bought it, but it seemed long-ish and stretchy, so I took a chance and decided not to try it on until it had been laundered with a significant amount of white vinegar. Turns out it was long enough, but my shoulders were perhaps not as delicate as the previous owner's obviously waif-like frame.

But I made it work.

Okay, NOW I was ready to party. And clearly, I had the prize for best outfit IN THE BAG. I mean, I was wearing a bonnet for crissakes. But when I made my way back outside I realized that I had been the very first guest to arrive. It was now almost 45 minutes past the start time noted on the invitation. My stomach was in knots. Not wanting to appear greedy, I didn't immediately start unwrapping the food on the buffet and shoving it in my mouth - instead, I distracted myself with a cocktail. In retrospect, this was probably not the best idea on an empty stomach. Add to that the cumulative sleep deprivation of raising Dude, and the muscle relaxer I had taken that morning for my back, and things went downhill pretty damn quickly - even for me.

As guests began arriving, I continued distracting myself from the buffet, trying to keep it classy. Which is ridiculous because A. I was dressed like an asshole and B. I could have eaten at any time, this was a group of girlfriends and no one cared if I plated up and dug in.

Within an hour or so (I had no sense of time at this point) I was.......let's just say I was very relaxed. I was so relaxed I was nodding off a little bit. I had finally gotten a plate of food, and now I was sitting in the sunshine. The warm, warm sunshine. Soooo waaarrrrrmmmmmmmm.

For the record, I drank ONE MOJITO. In one of those tiny plastic cocktail cups. But from the way I was slurring, you would think I had just chugged a bottle of tequila. What can I say, I'm a cheap date.

Just when I started to realize that I was actually going to have to find somewhere to nap - because the nap was absolutely unavoidable in my current state - I also realized that the guest list included people I did not know, and their mothers. Their lovely mothers arriving in sundresses and linen for a garden party on a beautiful Friday afternoon were coming face to face with a woman wearing a peach ballgown that was two sizes too small and a bonnet, virtually unconscious, muttering to herself about 420 and eating filet mignon with her fingers.

Classy INDEED.

I was at the stage where I had not only lost all sense of time, but also all control of my limbs. I was just numb. Numb with fatigue, rum, sunshine, food - you name it, I was maxxed out on it. I had to will myself to stand up, having a very unconvincing and fairly disjointed conversation in my head - at least, I hope it was in my head - that went something like: "Your legs still totally work, you just have to open your eyes and stand up. You will not fall down. You will NOT fall down. YOU WILL NOT FALL DOWN."

I made it to the front yard, where I kind of fell down a little bit, but managed to land in a bench swing rocker-type thing. And then I got up and moved to another benchy rockery thing - this one with cushions, and there I proceeded to pass out, smack dab in the middle of the front lawn, in full view of the entire garden party. To their credit, they all pretended that nothing was at all amiss, and that having some chick snoring on the lawn swing in the middle of the afternoon during a luncheon was normal. Charming, even. And for my part, I managed not to throw up or drool on myself, although I honestly have to say that it was all luck. The gods saved me from that one final bit of humiliation.

I remember very little from the party. I remember feeling chilly in the breeze and opening my eyes, staring through the fence at my car and wondering if I could possibly get there from where I was. I believe that I did walk over there at one point, and I further believe that I fell asleep IN my car for another undetermined amount of time.

When I woke up, sober and dehydrated in my hot car with the windows closed and my dress stuck in the door, it was evening and the sun was setting. I had enough sense to do the walk of shame back to the house (still in that horrible dress) thank my hosts, get a cup of water, and start plotting ways to sneak into my home, avoiding the babysitter until after I had showered and changed clothes.

It was all for naught, the babysitter and the children greeted me as I walked through the door resplendent in my ill-fitting peach satin and rhinestones. To see the look on their faces as it changed from joyous welcome to barely veiled horror was priceless and the only thing I remember clearly about the entire afternoon.

Except the filet. It was delicious.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What the hell kind of mother ARE you?

The other day I was standing in the grocery store, holding Dude, in my work clothes.

In any other place ON EARTH my work clothes would be, well, just regular work clothes. But here on Maui, in my favorite little grocery store (where shirts and shoes are optional) when I wear a heel any higher than a flip flop, people react as though I have cloven hooves for feet. Add a pencil skirt to the heels, and it just Blows. Their. Mind. 

Add to that the fact that I was balancing a baby, a purse, and an armload of groceries, and I swear to god, you would have thought I was in a ballgown, parting the red sea, and spinning straw to gold. Simultaneously.

I love that the bar is so low here.

As one person after the other remarked on how dressed up I was, or how brave I was to wear heels, or offered to carry my bags or breastfeed my baby so I didn't have to spend money buying all of that formula, I got to thinking: What is the big goddamn deal? Sheesh! Aren't there other moms walking around this store with newborns and high heels and cans of formula in their cart? (This required a quick jaunt across the store looking up every aisle to investigate - the result? Absolutely not. Though I did see one mom rocking a pair of clogs. Who is she trying to impress? Whore.)

I have never really thought anything about what I wear compared to other mothers, or what I do compared to other mothers. I have always just followed my instinct and the rule of law, and hoped for the best. 

The best being survival. 

Like I said, the bar is very low.

Is it so strange to be different? Does it mean I am doing it wrong? And if so, am I okay with that? What kind of mother am I, exactly? Just who the hell do I think I am?

I am the kind of mother who - when asked as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up - always said she wanted to be a mother.

I am the kind of mother who refused to buy a water gun for her kid - until she finally caved. And then brought home the biggest water gun she could find.

I am the kind of mother who spent a year researching the safest toddler carseat, and then strapped it into the passenger seat of a Mazda Miata convertible.

I am the kind of mother that buys chocolate for the candy holidays instead of the cheap crap, because why bother.

I am the kind of mother that carries her 3 month old on one hip, and her 7 year old on the other hip, down the hill in the rain - in stilettos and a mini skirt.

I am the kind of mother that choked on her tea while driving, and as she gasped for breath, handed her travel mug to her son - who sniffed it like he was checking for booze.

I am the kind of mother that took her 3 year old daughter to Capezio in NYC for her first pair of ballet shoes, and let her try them on and hold onto the barre with all of the professional ballerinas.

I am the kind of mother that - when she told her daughter that dinner was going to be chicken nuggets and mac and cheese - was met with a drop-jaw stare and the comment "Mom. That is not like you AT ALL."

I am the kind of mother that sometimes has to go outside and have a smoke get some fresh air all by herself.

I am the kind of mother that sits around in her underpants and doesn't really give a shit.

I am the kind of mother that takes her kids with her to bars for dinner - because bar food is delicious.

I am the kind of mother that doesn't worry about buying organic milk, but insists on organic grapes and organic root vegetables, and hates corn syrup and food coloring unless we're talking about HoHos or red velvet cake, in which case beggars can't be choosers.

I am the kind of mother that hates taking the kids to beaches that don't have a shower to rinse them off afterwards, because she really needs the kids to be clean before they get in her filthy car.

I am the kind of mother that walks past her bedroom that is piled high with laundry and papers and might qualify for an episode of Hoarders, and tells her kids that they have to clean up their rooms.

I am the kind of mother that does not play with toys. Ever.

I am the kind of mother who remembers the toys she loved (or coveted) as a child, and buys them for her kids to play with. Which is why her kids have both a Snoopy Sno Cone Machine and an Easy Bake Oven.

I am the kind of mother that considers Veggie Booty to be a vegetable and has served it for dinner so that there is something green on the plate.

I am the kind of mother that doesn't mind shaving her son's hair into a mohawk.

I am the kind of mother that makes her own BBQ sauce, and cooks hot dogs in beer.

I am the kind of mother that told her kids they couldn't join the soccer league because there was no way she was sitting around 3 days a week and every Saturday morning watching them kick a ball back and forth for hours.

I am the kind of mother that remembers what it was like to be a kid, and hopes her kids are having a better time of it than she did.

I am the kind of mother that doesn't mind being called a MILF.

I am the kind of mother that took her son to the store before he hit puberty and made him choose a deodorant by sniffing every single one on the shelf. And then forced him to use it every day even though he didn't need it yet, just so he would get in the habit. Because, as she explained, she didn't want him to be the stinky kid.

I am the kind of mother that tells her kids to choose a cereal that is on sale and has less then 10 grams of sugar per serving - and then lets them figure it out while she gets the rest of the grocery shopping done.

I am the kind of mother that charges her son for leaving the seat up, and charges her daughter for saying "I know" every time she tells her something. 

I am the kind of mother that loves her kids, but isn't always crazy about other people's kids.

I am the kind of mother that will stop at Krispy Kreme when the hot light is on.

I am the kind of mother that really *wants* to be the mom who bakes her kids elaborate birthday cakes from scratch, but knows she isn't that mom, and has ruined more than one birthday cake at a very inopportune moment. So she bakes a tray of cupcakes from a mix and lets the kids decorate them themselves with big bowls of icing and candy, to ease her guilt.
I am the kind of mother that uses reusable lunchbags, but keeps a case of Ziplocs on hand "just in case".

I am the kind of mother that tells one of her kids that they are her favorite, and then as she gives that kid a hug mouths "YOU'RE my favorite" to the other kid so that neither one of them is really sure who's her favorite. But they are both beginning to suspect that her favorite might be the dog.

I'm the kind of mother that ooohs and ahhhhs over their creations, and then throws about 75% of it away. Because really, how many play dough cookies and hand print turkeys does a mother need to save.

Bottom line - I am the best kind of mother I can be. It might not be good enough for some people, and it may not be "traditional" but it's all I got. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The birthday party saga continues. With guns.

Last week I was all verklempt because Lucy's sleepover devolved into a puddle of tears and nosebleeds.

I should have been counting my lucky stars.

Max informed me that the birthday party he has been invited to next month requires a gun.

Yes, it's an Airsoft gun. I know, it's not a real gun. But it sure as hell looks like a real gun. And he is going to use it to shoot his friends. He may be shooting them with little plastic bb's, but still. When the hell did a birthday party turn into war games? The birthday boy's mother told me with a resigned voice that all the boys had these guns. That she didn't like it, but that they seemed safe, and they wore protective gear. And this was what her son wanted for his birthday - an Airsoft war with his friends.

He wants to hide in the woods and shoot at his friends for his birthday.

DOESN'T ANYONE PLAY WITH LEGOS ANYMORE? I have about $5,000 worth of Legos, and apparently my kid is the only one still enamored with them. Everyone else is dressing in camo and trolling the woods waiting for a clear shot at his buddy.

In the movie "A Christmas Story", we are all hoping he gets his Red Rider BB gun. And when his mother says "You'll shoot your eye out" we all roll our eyes at her paranoia. I mean really. It's a bb gun. How bad could it be.

Now I find myself firmly in her shoes, and the idea of arming my child with anything stronger than a garden hose makes me nauseous. He has slowly been chipping away at my resolve, and I have been steeling myself as we have marched slowly towards the gun toy aisle. First, small water pistoles. Then, eventually, big huge water guns that could squirt water 75 feet. After all, it was only water. What harm could there be in buying him a water gun? But he wasn't satisfied with the water gun for long. It took him years to talk me into the Nerf gun, and when I finally acquiesced he spent every penny he had on those little orange foam darts. I breathed a sigh of relief that I had managed to survive getting my kid a gun, and thought I had done my part. You wanted a gun, I got you a gun. Are we good?

No. Not even close. Because apparently, Nerf guns are the gateway weapon. As soon as they get their fix, they need something that shoots harder, faster, further, louder. Something with a little more panache. A little edgier. A little more realistic.

So the guns get heavier, plastic turns to metal. Gray turns to camo turns to black. Big foam darts turn to bb's turn to.....bullets?

No. I don't want guns around me. I don't want my kid getting comfortable shooting guns. I have never shot a gun, My husband has never shot a gun. Nor have we ever needed to. If we lived in a rural area, or if one of us was a police officer, or a member of the armed forces, or a hunter, then this might be different. Maybe. I can't say, because in reality we live in a small, residential neighborhood in the middle of town, and we aren't cops or soldiers or hunters - and neither is our 11 year old. But he has this invitation, and a gleam in his eye. He cruises Amazon putting guns of all sizes, colors and style in the cart for me to "look at". And I dutifully look, and then look away.

I have been told that I am being ridiculous. That boys like guns. That buying them guns is unavoidable - whether it's a Red Rider bb gun in the 50's or an Airsoft rifle 60 years later. It's just something boys do. Some friends and readers have suggested that instead of saying no, I should educate him. Send him to gun safety classes. After all, he's a boy. Boys have been shooting things since the beginning of time.

Isn't time up yet?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The gift of Lucy. AKA someone gave us a baby.

It's Lucy's birthday today.

Every year, I reach into my bureau, and dig out a yellow t-shirt that I can't bear to part with.

I was wearing it the day that she arrived.

To this day, I am hard-pressed to explain the gift of Lucy. I don't understand how she found us. But I know this:

When you are having doubts about whether there is something out there that is bigger than all of us, and is running this show we call life, you need to remember this story. Because it gives me what little faith I have. It is a story as old as time. A woman unexpectedly expecting. A couple who cannot have a child. It didn't used to involve money and lawyers and red tape. It was a woman, and a baby, and a family being formed.

It happens throughout the animal kingdom: caring for a new life you are not biologically responsible for creating is not uniquely human, but trust humans to attach a dollar figure and a bunch of hassle to something so priceless and simple.

The greatest part of the gift of Lucy is the simplicity. We got a phone call asking if we were interested in adoption, and we said yes. We got a phone call a few months later with a few questions about our life and we answered them honestly. We got one last phone call on the morning of April 11th that said "Congratulations, you have a daughter. She is waiting for you in the nursery."

And that, as they say, was that.
No money. No agency. No profile. No interviews. No negotiations. No passports. Just a baby girl. And a mother finding someone to raise her, someone who would love and treasure her and keep her safe. We never met this woman, never spoke with her, never laid eyes on her. She gave birth, said goodbye, and left the hospital.

I know, you think I am leaving something out. I assure you I am not. I filled out the birth certificate, social security application and insurance paperwork at the hospital with the registrar the day Lucy was born, listing our names as her parents -  we received all of the documents in the mail a few weeks later. She had a passport within a month.

We hired a lawyer to file the paperwork, so that everything was done correctly. We didn't need to - but we're human, after all.

Lucy, you are amazing. You are a gift and a treasure. You remind me every day that generosity has no limits, that anything is possible, that there is good in this world - more so now that you are in it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hosted a sleepover party. It was bloodier than the slumber parties of my childhood.

This is Lucy's birthday week. She wanted to have a sleepover party with two friends. Because there are only 5 girls in her class, I felt terrible excluding some of them. As a child who was excluded (or at least, felt lonely) for much of my childhood, I am probably overly sensitive - but still. I asked if she would invite all the girls, as a favor to me.

I will regret that forever, don't you worry.

She was hesitant. Said she wanted to think about it. There was a decided lack of enthusiasm, and I can understand why - there is no rule that you have to like everyone, or get along with everyone - she has two close friends, and I was asking her to invite children she did not know as well, children that she had never had a sleepover (or even a playdate) with. She was markedly unenthusiastic. I didn't push her, but I was hoping she would come around.

At some point the girls in class realized that Lucy's birthday was coming up, and began to curry favor - writing stories that extolled the virtues of Lucy's friendship and the adventures they share. Drawing pictures to give to her. Inviting her to play. She seemed a little confused, but rolled with it - I mean, who doesn't like being wooed? Eventually, she agreed that she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and that all of the girls could be invited. And why not - they were all being so lovely.

Friday afternoon, I picked up a few of the guests from school. The baby talk and catty commentary from one of the girls began before I pulled out of the parking lot, and it took all of my strength not to pull over and drop off the source on the side of the road. Lucy gave me a look via the rear view mirror that said something along the lines of "I told you this was a bad idea" and all I could do was avoid eye contact and hope we could still have a nice little party. But she knew. This was gong to be a total shit show

When we got home, the kids piled out, and I started to prepare a snack. The mail was sitting on the counter and I flipped through it quickly, stopping at the fat envelope from the IRS.

Um. Not good. Thick envelopes from the IRS are NOT GOOD.

I opened it, and within 5 minutes I was experiencing a full-blown panic attack, climbing into the attic searching for our 2010 tax return. Max came to inquire about the snack - how was that coming along? He saw me frantically digging through a file folder and grabbed an apple, than backed away slowly. Then the girls came out. Five minutes, I told them from the attic. Give me 5 minutes.

I climbed down with an armful of paperwork, finished making their snack, then went back to searching the statements and receipts. My heart was still pounding. Sam came in and announced he was leaving for band practice. Two more girls arrived, and one of them was not wearing black and white, which apparently was some sort of theme that I was not aware of. Catty baby talk girl called her out on it immediately. I restrained myself from texting her mother and rescinding the invite as I dug out two or three black and white dresses in case they wanted to wear them.

And then I took a Xanax. Which was, it turned out, some excellent planning on my part.

I made dinner, the girls watched a movie. All along, there was the baby talk and the catty comments which Lucy gamely tried to deflect. But at times, it just exceeded her ability to moderate. I had to spend a lot of time giving girls the eyebrow, or telling them to change the subject, or their tone, or the octave in which they were speaking. There was a heated discussion when one of the girls insisted she had not attended her parent's wedding. "Well, you were in your mother's belly" catty baby talk girl said, in the most condescending tone I have ever heard from a 7 year old. "No, no I wasn't" came the reply. "I wasn't born until much later." she said resolutely. "You were a twinkle" the girl informed her regally, in a way that made it clear that she was intimately aware of the bride's maternal status 7 years ago. "No, I wasn't. They didn't know anything about me" the poor kid defended herself. One of the other girls told the story about attending her parents wedding a few years ago. "Everyone's parents got married on the beach!" someone declared. Which was true, except for the girl who's parents had never gotten married.

I couldn't take it anymore. Were they really going to give some kid a hard time because she wasn't conceived until after her parents were married, like that made her some kind of oddball? And I certainly didn't want to get into a conversation about why one girl's parents weren't married at all - this was not the time for that discussion. And sure, I got married barefoot on the beach - which was clearly part of a huge trend I knew nothing about at the time - but didn't anyone get married indoors anymore? As they launched into a conversation about how long their parents had known each other before they got married, I sensed that things were going in the wrong direction for a casual pizza dinner.

"You know" I interrupted. "sometimes people get married years before they have children. Years! And they get married on the beach or in houses or their yard, or even in churches! And some people never get married at all! WHO WANTS MORE PIZZA?"

I said that last line with finality, indicating that this topic was now closed.

The children returned to their pizza, the smartass looking at me dubiously.

At about 9pm, I sent everyone off to bed and washed all of our plates and silverware for the second time that day. At 9:15 one of the girls came down to the living room. I couldn't understand all of what she said, but it was something about a bloody nose. I jumped up, put Dude in his Exersaucer, grabbed a box of tissues, and ran after her down the hall.

There was a trail of blood, and at the end of it all six girls were crowded into the bathroom. My freshly cleaned, white tiled bathroom. At the center of the huddle was one little girl, her head held over the white sink which was full of blood. The white floor was also sporting a fair amount. The contrast of the bright red blood on the gleaming white tile was shocking. I said a silent prayer of thanks that I had already taken a Xanax.

"Wow." I said, because it was the only G rated comment I could come up with. "Okay, everyone go back to bed. Wait, is there blood in the bed? You stay RIGHT THERE" I instructed the bleeder. I ran down the hall, carefully avoiding the spatters, and searched the bed which was - remarkably - pretty clear.

I ran back to the bathroom, where the blood was still flowing. "Wow." I said again. "Okay, listen. Here's some tissues. Can you just pinch your nose for a minute while I get some towels?" She nodded silently, staring down at the bright red puddle in the sink.

I'm okay with blood, as a rule. Vomit? No. Broken bones? Can't help you. Diarrhea? That sounds like a personal problem to me. But blood I am not squeamish about. I don't like dealing with blood, but I can if I need to - and clearly, I needed to. This was a lot of fucking blood. I found some towels and texted her mom that we had a serious bloody nose going on. I got a text back that said "Can you call me?"

Actually, no. No I cannot. Because, you see, I have 6 girls totally freaked out, one of them covered in blood, and I really have to clean up all of this fucking blood right now. Maybe we can chat a little later. The phone dinged again, one of the other moms just checking in. "Everything okay? Girls asleep? Want me to swing by?"

My text back to her said something like "OH MY GOD SO MUCH BLOOD."

She was there in 5 minutes with a bottle of wine. She held Dude, I paced and told her about the day, and about the mean girls that I had forced Lucy to invite, and the argument at dinner.

At 10:30 several of the girls began coming out, one after the other, to complain that one of the girls wouldn't stop talking, and that another girl was pinching people. I went into the room each time, telling people to stop talking, keep their hands to themselves, try to go to sleep, etc. etc. I finally had to move Lucy to my bed because she was so upset that one of the girls would not shut up so she could go to sleep, and I had to send the pincher to a sofa alone in the TV room.

Lucy cried herself to sleep.

Happy Birthday!

The next morning dawned at 6am. I know this because the girls were already awake and complaining about stuff. I really cannot over-state how much whining and baby talk emanated from two of the girls in the 20 hours they were with me. It wasn't occasional, it wasn't cute - it was constant and grating and awful and the other girls just sat there waiting for the few whiners to shut up so they could get back to having fun. But it was difficult to have fun around some of these kids. They spent a lot of time ordering people around, pouting when they didn't get their way, making snotty comments, saying hurtful things, and acting like babies. I mean that literally. Actually sucking their thumbs and saying "Whaa whaaa" instead of speaking. One of the girls came out and said in a high pitched infantile voice "Can me pwease have back my wittle bag?" Lucy had just taken the little drawstring pouch that her gift - a necklace - had come in, filled it with silver, star shaped confetti that sh wanted to save, and put it on the counter for safekeeping. And now this girl wanted it back. I think she really just wanted the confetti.

I said "Well, that isn't really how that works, it's supposed to be used to store the necklace, to keep it from getting tangled." I explained. She made a sour face and turned on her heel, stomping away. A few of the girls came by giggling. "I'm not playing with you." she proclaimed loudly, then went and sat on Lucy's bed and pouted. I emptied the necklace and the confetti onto the counter and brought it into Lucy's room. "There you go." I said with a smile as I handed it over. She glared at me.

The parents began arriving at 10:30. By 11am all but on of the girls was gone. When her mother finally arrived at 11:15, Lucy came out of her room crying, with the last guest trailing behind. "What happened?" I asked. Lucy tried to catch her breath "She bit my new shirt and ripped it" she wailed. The hem of her shirt was frayed and slightly torn. I stood there and stared. "She what?" I said incredulously.

"I didn't mean to bite it so hard!" the little girl said by way of explanation.

And that, I think, summed up the weekend nicely. I didn't mean for it to bite so hard.
And also, half of my forks are missing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

And then I choked on a Cadbury Mini Egg

Up until a few months ago, I had a pretty good thing going. It wasn't lucrative, and it was far from perfect, but I was working from home - which translated into a lot of sitting around in my underwear blogging and enjoying high spirited fun as often as possible (SIDEBAR I love the phrase "high spirited fun" because it basically says that you were stoned and/or drunk while having lots of fun - but you can say it with a fake British accent like Mary Poppins, which makes it sound like you did not mean that AT ALL and what exactly are you implying?)

So there I was writing and re-enacting Risky Business dance moves and enjoying some high spirited fun while the kids were in school (no mind-altering substances involved, what are you implying?) when the aforementioned high spirited fun came to a screeching halt with the arrival of a very cute - but definitely not fun at all - baby. I had to put pants on before the social worker even dropped him off.

His arrival also coincided with a writer's workshop I had signed up for. I wasn't going to just be blogging lightheartedly anymore. I was getting serious and Workshopping, and dammit I was going to get my book kicked in the ass. Instead, I staggered into the workshop on two hours of sleep clutching a laptop with a dead battery and a mug of cold coffee, carrying the baby who was doing all of the ass kicking I could handle. Within a month my writing slowed to a crawl - possibly as a result of complete and utter sleep deprivation, but probably because my spirit was being stifled by all the pants I was wearing.

And then I got a great job.
And hired a babysitter.
And became a working mother of three.

I have to be honest - this does not make for a productive writing environment. Plus, I was no longer having any fun. I was living in what was basically a black hole of fun. And so I felt as though I had nothing to write about. And then slowly I realized that it wasn't just my writing that was suffering. A whole part of myself was shriveling up with boredom and fatigue.

I mean, just last year? THIS WAS ME - wandering the Las Vegas Strip at 1am without any pants on -clearly not bored or fatigued:
the only thing missing from this good time is a bag of Mini Eggs
This photo was taken in the middle of a gall bladder attack for chrissakes. I had just cut off a hospital bracelet the day before. I needed to get back to that level of high spirited fun. So I started rooting around for stuff to do, making plans and getting excited about life again. It helped a lot that Easter is coming up, and this year the island has a pretty good supply of Cadbury Mini Eggs. Last year they had to be delivered to me via care packages, but this year I stocked up at Walmart early in the season and man, I have really perked up since securing my inventory in mid-February.

Bottom line? Nothing get me more excited about life than the arrival of Mini Eggs. I store them in my underwear drawer, and I begin eating them when I put on my underwear in the morning. I feel like a fucking superhero in my underoos when I am high on Mini Eggs. I stick a few in my purse for the mid-morning blood sugar lull, and I eat a couple on the drive home from work. I snack on them while I make dinner, and then, of course, I lie in bed and eat them at night.

Currently, I have an enormous zit on my chin, a chalky feeling on my teeth, and a minor headache - but no regrets. These chocolate babies with a sweet candy shell are saving my soul.

Any time I start to feel even vaguely angsty (or if I even start to feel anything at all) I pull open my underwear drawer and grab another fistful of eggs and all is right with the world - except that we should all be doing more stuff and having more fun and wearing way less clothing. And so, two weekends ago, I drove several hours away and enjoyed some high spirited fun far from my kids and my responsibilities. It was like a spark had been waiting inside of me to re-ignite, and all it needed was a little air. Which is why I didn't wear pants all weekend. To make sure my spark had puh-lenty of fresh air. Since returning home, I avoid pants whenever possible, have increased my Mini Egg consumption markedly, and been trying like hell to recapture the joie de vivre that was so effectively stomped out by a work schedule and a newborn entering my life simultaneously this past winter. (SIDE NOTE: removing your pants might be the quickest way to loosen up and get some fun back in your life. You should try it. Please check your local laws before leaving your home without pants on, because I think getting arrested for indecent exposure or public nudity - or just getting arrested at all - might take the joie right out of your vivre, if you catch my drift. Luckily, I chose to go pantsless in an area that prides itself on a "live and let live and skip the pants" mentality. I had no trouble with the law and my vivre was joieful.)

And then I choked on a Cadbury Mini Egg.

Listen, it was my fault. I was enthusiastically tossing and catching Mini Eggs (with my mouth, natch - I got skillz, yo) and one just went straight down my throat.

The irony of asphyxiating on a Mini Egg was not lost on me as my life flashed before my eyes. And then, that blessed candy shell enabled me to simply swallow the entire thing like a bloated vitamin.

I have a new lease on life, and you can too.

Long story short, ditch the kids, take off your pants, pour a big glass of milk, rip open a bag of Mini Eggs, and have yourself some high spirited fun this week before the stores run out of Mini Eggs and the kids are home for Easter break.

You'll thank me later.