Thursday, April 28, 2011

Holding the median. Someone's gotta do it.

There are many, many kinds of moms. Some of us break the mold, and some of us made the damn thing to begin with, and wish you would be more careful with it so they didn't have to keep FIXING it all the time. And the rest of us are too busy cleaning up the broken mold to deal with the specifics.

But whether you made the mold, broke it, or cleaned it up - you have to learn to get along with all of the other moms - even when they make you nuts. Just like you have to learn to deal with OPK (Other People's Kids). You are not alone on this carnival ride.

I always considered myself right around the middle. Just your average mom about town. I base that assessment on the moms I find myself interacting with on a regular basis. While I hate to pigeonhole, there are a few general demographics that each of us might recognize - at least partially. I can honestly say that I recognize each of these women in myownself.

On one end of the spectrum, we have the Republican soccer mom, with a college degree she never actually used, driving the minivan of neighborhood kids from home to school to game to McDonalds to swim meet and then back to the neighborhood at dusk. She keeps the bills organized alphabetically by date and remembers to mail them out in time with the stamps she always has in her wallet. She actually irons things and has even been known to drop clothes off at the dry cleaners - even more remarkably, she remembers to pick them up again. She has never smoked a cigarette in her life but does drink a glass of chardonnay every evening while fixing dinner - usually red meat because that' swhat her husband prefers, but sometimes she'll mix it up and grill some chicken. Occasionally, she'll throw the ingredients for a stew in the crockpot before she takes the kids to school in the morning, and she has a little extra time in the evenings. On those nights, if she isn't playing Bunco with the girls, she has an extra glass of wine to reward herself for being so gosh darn organized.

A little to the left (but still slightly to the right of middle) is the mom in yoga pants (who actually only attended that one prenatal yoga class, but just fell in love with the clothes!) driving the SUV full of kids - and yes they ARE all hers thankyouverymuch - who plans her morning errands around hitting Starbucks on the way out, and Sonic on the way home. She's got an iron around here somewhere but she's not sure exactly where, and if she was going to iron something she would just turn the knobby thing as far as it would go and hope she didn't burn anything. She's not thinking too much about politics and charges everything on the credit card her husband gave her when she overdrew the checking account for the umpteenth time last year. She makes dinner almost every night - choosing whatever looked good out of the freezer they have in the garage - sometimes pizza, sometimes pot pies, and occasionally Breakfast for Dinner! and while dinner is defrosting she has been known to relax with a wine cooler in the late afternoon while the kids watch Nick Jr.

Then slightly left of center we have the earnest, educated mom, who carefully chose the private, non-religious school her kids attend, unless she had a connection in one of the hot new charter schools - though she is considering bagging the whole thing and just homeschooling for chrissakes. She drives a fuel-efficient something or other and she has gotten numerous tickets for talking on her cellphone while operating a motor vehicle because she can't stand the hideous bluetooth earpiece that came with her phone. Her food is organic, she paid top dollar for it at Whole Foods, and she hasn't eaten at McDonalds since she watched King Corn and Food Inc in the same week last year on Netflix. She sends money to NPR, and the ACLU every month - it's automatically deducted from her checking account so she won't forget, and she chooses one candidate every election cycle to support via a bumpersticker or carefully placed window decal - usually the candidate that she found least offensive, but boy it was a tough call between Clinton and Obama in 08. She cracks a bottle of wine each night before she turns on CNN - sometimes she just has a glass, sometimes she drinks the whole damn thing depending on how much Afghanistan footage they show before 7pm. On real bad nights, she'll sneak an American Spirit out of the pack she has stashed in the back of the freezer. She tries to stay awake for Jon Stewart but usually passes out before Colbert - she watches him online while she eats lunch in her office.

And of course we have the all-grown-up-now flower child, cruising along in the battered Volkwagon that runs on used fryer oil, and is covered with political stickers. She's not quite a Freegan, but she's thinking about it. For now she buys everything second hand, or her friends give her things they don't need anymore - Reduce Reuse Recycle! - and she food shops almost exclusively at farmers markets, always remembering to bring the basket hand-woven by women in Africa (that she bought at the co-op) to carry her purchases. She refuses to buy anything packaged in plastic, and everything has to be organic, locally sourced whenever possible. She has chickens in the front yard and a huge garden in the back. She would never smoke - except weed, because that's natural - and she can't drink red wine because of the tannins so she carries around an old Mason jar with a tea ball filled with matcha and she just refills it all day long - you'd be amazed how much use you can get out of one tablespoon of tea! She hasn't worn a bra since junior high and she thinks booster seats are a conspiracy to force the public to support big business. After all, she spent her childhood standing up in the back seat of her parents 68 vw bug waving out the back window to passing motorists, and she survived JUST FINE.

And then, there's me. I am each of these women, honestly. All of them mixed up and spit out in a crazy mishmash depending on the day, my mood, and how much sleep I got the night before. When I get impatient with people, I have to remind myself of these similarities - because it's easy to judge and be annoyed, but much harder to really examine yourself and realize that you are more alike than you would like to think. Now that people are starting to make quiet comments about the 2012 election, I have to remind myself - OVER AND OVER AGAIN - that we are all pretty similar underneath the rhetoric. We all want our air and water to be clean, our food supply to be safe, our kids to be healthy, the economy to be strong, and the dog to stop throwing up on the rug.

If you think I'm sexy you have me confused with Rod Stewart.

I have heard the phrase "hot mess" bandied about from time to time, and let me tell you:
I am all of the mess with none of the hot lately.

To wit: I am subsisting on three food groups this week: Soupy, Candy, and Booze.

It's the Easter Trifecta, and none of it makes for good blog fodder. I am floating in a daze of pork, carbonation, and chocolate-coated goodness and I can barely get a clear thought out of my head - never mind typed up and published in a timely manner. In keeping with the Easter theme, my vehicle of choice for the soupy is scrambled eggs - soupy makes a lovely frittat - but let me tell you something:

My tummy doesn't feel so good.

It could be my diet, it could be my awesome new meds which are amazing for the pain but less amazing for the digestive system, or it could be that this Saturday is my first time working as a bench coach for the derby girls.

Derby Girls are scary because A. with skates on they are at least a head taller than me, and B. they can (and totally will) kick my ass if necessary.

So I am going for my usual line of defense, which is wearing perilously high heels and lingerie. Because if you can't beat 'em, distract 'em.

However, high heels and sequined onesies may not translate in the heat of Hawaii's mid-day. The bout starts at 4pm, a time of day that is frequently still searingly hot here on Maui. I suspect that by the end of the afternoon I will have eye makeup trickling into my ears and my mohawk will have toppled over to one side, resembling more of a jaunty tam-o-shanter than the punk/goth pompadour I had in mind.

None of that, of course, is any use to me now. I have spent the past few days in a haze of sugar highs and muscle relaxer lows, which - I have to say - makes for a fun ride, and I still have 3 days to go. I am running low on sausage, so something's gotta give. Let's just hope it's not these pajama pants I've had on all week. I'm not ready to give them up for the sequins and satin just yet.

I know you will be anxiously awaiting photos of our season opener, and FEAR NOT - ask and ye shall receive. (Unless you are asking for some of my soupy, in which case you are just shit out of luck.) I am pretty sure this entire post is just one long rambling and disjointed stream of consciousness - but photos! Those will be fun and possibly even easy to understand. Or not. Sometimes its more fun if you have no idea what the hell is going on. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I went to the doctors and all I got was this lousy anti-inflammatory

I am writing this from bed.

I have spent a lot of time here lately.

In bed, that is.

It's a long story that can be summed up in a few short words.

My Neck Is Fucked Up.

It's been that way for almost as long as I can remember. Probably from all of the times I got hit in the face with stuff. Or drove into things. Or fell down. (I fall down a lot.)

As with most things medically-related, I am precocious. I have arthritis in my neck. It never fails to amuse me, when the doctor looks at my medical record and says "Huh. Given your age, I ever would have thought of that." It happens all the time with the menopause/hysterectomy conversation, which is always a crowd pleaser. But the neck is really special, because a lot of the time I will be heaving into a trash can from the pain while they casually avert their eyes and continue to discuss their next plan of attack.

This morning, when it became clear that not only could I not turn my head, but I also could only open one eye, Sam took the day off and drove me to the doctors. Clearly, driving was not on my list of things to do today.

(Don't worry, the doctor totally gave him a note for taking the day off.)
(Which made me feel even more like an invalid.)
(Thank god I can still wipe my own ass.)

And basically the doctor reassured me that there was absolutely nothing that could be done, and the best that could be hoped for was to find a drug cocktail that could keep me comfortable.

How reassuring.

It felt like the human equivalent of being put out to pasture.

She handed me a prescription for a muscle relaxer to take every day forever, and an anti-inflammatory that is also now part of my daily regimen, and then a refill for the one drug that they have found that seems to knock me (if not my pain) out and allow me to sleep. That last one is my golden ticket. The medicine I carry in my purse at all times JUST IN CASE. The pill I know will work when things get desperate.

So I walked straight to the pharmacy window at clinic, and handed them my paperwork, and then settled into a seat to wait. Then I went outside and we drove around, because sitting with all of those sick people was making me tense. A good call, it turns out, because when we returned to pick up my prescription, someone had just thrown up all over the welcome mat inside the clinic door.


And instead of being totally grossed out - okay, IN ADDITION to being totally grossed out, I was totally relieved that I had not been the one responsible.

Carefully avoiding the puke trail, I saw my name on the screen and approached the window while pulling out my ID for all of the bottles of fun that I had waiting for me.

And that's when I got the news.

The medicine I depend on to be a fully-functioning human being with the ability to turn my head to the left has been discontinued. Also discontinued, my ability to look over my shoulder before changing lanes. Fuck. Me.

"What do you mean it's been discontinued? I LOVE THIS STUFF."
In retrospect, perhaps I should have dialed down my enthusiasm for a controlled substance but fuckitall I have found something that works and I want more of it.

"Let's try this one!" the pharmacist said. My husband reluctantly paid for it, but he, too, knows that this drug - this discontinued drug - was my magic bullet.

We took the new medication home, and stared at the label, and read the accompanying information. I googled it, read some more, and decided to try one. Then I climbed into bed with an ice pack to wait and see what happened. It's kind of like being Alice in Wonderland. They give you a pill and you take it, and then wait for the side effects to kick in.

So here I am, an hour after taking this replacement medicine.

It's okay, I GUESS. But what I really feel right now besides slightly less stiff and sore (and let's be honest, a little high) is defeated. I feel like a science experiment. I feel old. I worry about how I am going to function when I am 80, if I feel this shitty at 36. I am pissed that this body of mine started giving out so early. I have had to accept the prematurely gray hair, the menopause, and the fact that I can't participate in any sport where I could get bumped or fall down. I have learned to deal with the fact that I cannot turn my head, touch my toes, or lift anything that weighs more than 30 pounds. That I will have to take some sort of medication or follow some sort of plan of care (holistic or otherwise) forever.

Forever is a long time. Never again seems even longer.

I just want to hang out and enjoy my life with my loving family and amazing friends in this beautiful place.

So while I sit here and pout and contemplate crocheting tea cozies and making bibs out of hand towels (which I will probably need myself in the not too distant future) as is apparently my lot in life, I would like to share Lewis CK's point of view. After my experiences today, I think he sums it up nicely. At least he can be funny about it. I am having trouble seeing the humor in this right now.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reviews of easter candy - candy day, Easter 2011


Because we are not Christian, Easter starts with great big baskets full of candy at dawn, and our entire day revolves around those baskets, and that candy. And later on, maybe a ham or something. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

We subscribe to the "Candy Day" system, wherein during a "candy-based holiday" like Easter and Halloween, the children are allowed - nay, encouraged - to eat as much candy as they physically can for the entire day. They must intersperse the candy with 3 balanced meals, but other than that, they can sit there and consume all the candy they want. All candy, all day. They eat at a steady pace, taking breaks, generously offering up the candy they don't want so as not to waste their time.

Sometimes, they lie down for a bit and just enjoy the high.

And then, after 12 hours, any remaining candy gets thrown in the trash, and they are done with the candy.

The sugar crash happens while they sleep. They wake up the next day feeling vaguely nauseous and a bit run-down, and spend the day lying around trying to rebalance their blood sugar.

But they sure as hell don't ask for candy.

Now, while the children may follow the candy day system, I do not. I keep a stash for a week or two, usually in the back of the pantry or in my bedside drawer. I don't share, and I keep only the good stuff. I am extremely selective in my candy consumption, and I have no interest in candy that is chewy, or hard. I like chocolate, mostly. Peanut m&ms. Sometimes a nice malted milk ball. Nerds for the nostalgia factor.

Don't try to give me jelly beans. I won't eat them. I think they are a blight on the landscape of Easter.

Hands down, my favorite candy is the Cadbury Mini Egg. Not the Hershey ones - Cadbury. They come in a dark purple bag, and they have a crunchy candy shell and they are perfection. At the first sign of Easter displays, I rush to the store and stock up.

This year, sadly, there were no big bags of Mini Eggs to be found, just the small "individual size". I don't know what "individual" they had in mind when they decided on the number of eggs each little bag would contain, but here's what I know: it's barely a fistful. Just a few. A meager portion. A ration, if you will.

It's a conspiracy and it's bullshit and it totally ruined my Easter.

I didn't give up easily. I kept the dream alive. I went from store to store, and each time I entered the Easter candy aisle my heart would race. Maybe today I would find a 1 pound bag of precious Cadbury Mini Eggs. Maybe, just maybe.

But no.

So yesterday, my heart broken, and mini egg season at an end, I trudged down the aisle looking for something - anything - that might possible take away some of my pain.

And that is when I spotted them.


Yes, I know. Peeps are disgusting and they only thing they are any good for is roasting over a roaring fire for s'mores. I get that. But Peepsters are just so much more than Peeps. In fact, they bear no resemblance to Peeps whatsoever. They are chocolate covered, marshmallow-filled, bite-sized pieces of sunshine.

And they come in a big bag.

They don't judge me with their limited portions. They don't mock me by being elusive during the Easter season. They were there for me when I needed someone.

They totally saved Easter.
Mini Eggs, there's a new Easter treat in town. And if I pace myself, I can make them last until next weekend.
Probably not.
I ate them already, actually.
But tomorrow, I will return to the stores. Not in search of Mini Eggs, but on the hunt for Peepsters.

Because the only thing better than a Peepster is a Peepster on clearance.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pretty water, warm sun, I'm an idiot.

I know I act like an idiot all the time. This is not news.

But today, Oh! I really made it happen for myself.

It all started with a trip to the beach.
It sounded so sweet. So simple. So lovely. So relaxing.

But here's the thing with me and the beach.
There is sand. It is everywhere. And it feels so good. And then, it sticks. And clings. And sticks and clings and gets in stuff and there must be a shower for it's removal. And a bathroom. There has to be a bathroom in case I have to go. To it. (the bathroom) So, running water is a must.
And the sun. Oh, it is so warm. And also, hot. And burny. And hard to get away from. (Much like the sand, remarkably.) The umbrella really doesn't offer much protection, now, does it. From the hot, hot burning sun. With a daughter who's skin is the perfect peaches and cream little pink-cheeked irish rosy freckled fair, the sun is my enemy.
And there is the water. So blue and sparkling. And also, wet. And wavy. And slightly scary with the currents and the wildlife and sharp rocks and coral and stuff I can't see and people might be peeing in it you never can tell with people. And the fish are definitely peeing in it.

So basically, I go to the beach for an hour or two, but only if it has a shower and a bathroom, and trees for shade, and I can sit and admire the water, carefully staying on my towel.


Today was not that. The kids were going on a field trip, and the whole day was being spent at the beach. They rotated through 4 stations, writing poetry and painting with watercolors and doing a science project and cleaning up the beach in honor of Earth Day.

I was not prepared - mentally or in any other way - for a day at the beach.

I did not sleep the night before, not because I was so excited about our beach day, but because frequently I do not sleep.

I spent the hours between 6:30 and 8:30am trying to find a suite that sleeps 8 for a bachelor party next weekend.

(Don't ask.)

At 8:30, I glanced at the clock, realized what time it was, leaped out of bed, pulled on a bathing suit, brushed my teeth and rushed to the kitchen, frantically pulling food out of the fridge and the pantry as I went. I belatedly tried to locate the cooler I had promised to bring, while responding to texts and reminding the kids to pack their water bottles.

The cooler was located in a dusty corner of the porch, covered in cobwebs.

I dragged it out and wiped it off and loaded it up, then hauled it down the stairs to the car. The gate slammed shut behind me, causing me to jump and almost fall face first down the stairs.
*bam* (flinch)

I ran back up the stairs and shoved the gate open
*bam* (flinch)

I located beach towels and a smaller cooler for our lunches and packed up that stuff, and dragged it down to the car.
*bam* (flinch)

I ran back up the stairs.
*bam* (flinch)

I grabbed my wallet, my sunglasses, a bottle of water and my cellphone charger, and desperately shoved it all into a tote bag as I raced back down the stairs
*bam* (flinch)

I hopped in the car, slammed my door, and reached for the keys - which were, I remembered belatedly, on the kitchen counter. With my phone.

I ran back up the stairs
*bam* (flinch)

Good thing I went back - the door was still wide open (sigh)
*bam* (flinch)

And as we took off like a shot, over the speed bumps and down the mountain to the sea, I had a list running through my head. Press Release to write, bills to pay, people to call, fuck I forgot to email my aunt, documents to mail, reservations to make, and I reached for my coffee.

No coffee.
No coffee?
No tea.
I forgot my caffeine.
Oh dear.

We pulled into the beach lot right at 9 and I shooed the kids off, over the dunes towards the tight knot of classmates. I parked and followed, with the cooler slamming against my shins with every step, reminding me of the pounding headache that I was developing.

I stopped a few times to catch my breath.

I made it.

I dropped the cooler and headed back to the car, sliding in the sand, squinting in the sun, and desperate (desperate!) for coffee. Or tea. Or sugar. Something. Anything. Please god get me out of the sun and away from the noise of the surf and the wind and these hot rays of sun. My head, my eyes, MY GOD MY EYES.

Belatedly, I would like to share something with you.
I am not a morning person.

I arrived back at the car with my shoulders already too-warm, the slow burn of the equatorial fire-sun was setting in.

I turned the ac on full blast and pointed the car back towards town - caffeinecaffeinecaffeinecaffeinecaffeine

I had to stand in line. A long line. A line that left me standing in front of row after row of glass jars filled with teas, so smug in their caffeine-ness. And bags of coffee. And still, I waited.
I got caffeine. And also a sandwich and ice and then back to the beach and I gather my things and drag the bucket of sand toys and bag of ice and climb over the sliding hills and through the prickly bush and drop this second load of belongings. People were calling greetings but I wasn't there yet. More caffeine. More time. No talking, Not yet.

Back to the car through the sand and across the red scorched earth and hopping the last little bit because it was hot and prickly and drive to another shadier spot and just.....sit. AC blasting, NPR soothing, coffee sipping moment.

And then back. To sit and stay in the shade and try to hammer through the list of things I haven't done. And then I realize - sunblock. She doesn't have her sunblock. My lily-fair maiden is without the block.

I really should carry my Xanax. This is no joke. And then:

"Mama," she asked. "Where are my shoes?"

Shoes. Panic. Shoes. Shit.

I rush back to the car across burny sliding sand and the wind and the su and OH MY EYES. Unlock the car open the back door, the trunk, the front door, the other side, running around the car like a god damned chinese fire drill. A desperate moment. The realization that while I hustled everyone out of the house and ran up and down the stairs 17 times, and reminded them to grab water bottles, I did not remind them to bring shoes. I did not ask if they had them on. I did not see them get in the car or out of the car. Had she come to the beach barefoot?

No shoes. It can't be helped. She wears her brother's for beach cleanup.

We stay. I sit. I type, they play, I reapply block and chase my giggling sandy pink-eared children with shirts that promise an spf50 in one hand, and floppy brimmed hats in the other.

I turn back to my towel and come face to face with another parent. A father. In a bright blue Speedo.

How dashing.

I am not nearly sophisticated enough to come face to face with a  man in a bikini, and not giggle. That shit is funny and if you don't think so then you are clearly more cultured and mature than myself. (Which, granted, is, like, 95% of humanity.) I try not to stare. I stare at the water. I stare at my phone. I stare at my children. I post on facebook. I watch the clock for the moment when I can call this day over. Because paradise it may be, but personal hell it definitely is.

And when we finally got home, back to my house with it's fans and shade and prefectly flushing water and lovely humming refrigerator and my NPR and my sofa and I have a moment to breathe, I reflect.

Boy. I sure do love the beach. Maybe I'll go again next year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We're quite clear that I am nobody, but who the hell are you again?

There has been a card sitting on my kitchen counter for a few days now. I just keep picking it up and reading the inscription, then shaking my head and putting it back down. I can't bring myself to throw it away, whether it's because I truly cannot believe what it says, or because I feel like I need to save the evidence, or perhaps I just want to have a reminder.

A reminder of why this person hasn't been a part of my life for years.

Because it was on purpose, you know. I purposefully made the choice to walk away. To let them have the last word. To honor what was clearly their desire to see the last of me.

Good riddance.

The feeling was entirely mutual, I assure you.

It's not about "holding a grudge" - I like to think of it more as "keeping my word".

I have experience with this phenomenon. This careful editing of my life. When a relative disappeared on Christmas without so much as an "I'm going to the airport now." and never came back? I got it. You made a choice, probably a really difficult one, and I respected it as best I could (albeit while feeling nothing but disgust and contempt - but I tried to keep that to myself. You may not think I did, but trust me on this one: that was my version of "keeping it to myself"). I didn't take it personally. Things happen, choices are made, and the world keeps turning. And that is why, even after all of that, I offered to contribute to the care of our mutual relative - bygones be bygones, right? Except, I was told by another family member of yours to "mind my own business". Point taken. I hear you loud and clear. I minded. I minded ALL THE WAY.
You can bet I minded.
Boy, did I mind.
And I've minded ever since. I have kept my word.

And keeping my word felt so good, I applied it to the rest of my life.

I should actually thank them for encouraging me to step back and mind my own businesss, because it's been AWESOME. I have made a conscious decision to remove myself from relationships that bring me excessive amounts of stress - even if the stressful relationship is with a family member. Sometimes it's for the greater good. Sometimes it is the easiest way. Sometimes it is done with a thoughtful, well considered process. In this particular situation, I cut ties out of desperation and necessity, with heartbreak and humility.

And I can honestly say that over 10 years later - it's better this way. I made the right decision by honoring theirs. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it takes getting burned a few times to finally get it. But when I get it, I really get it.

Which is why it was so surprising to get a card, addressed to my kids, complete with a cute photo of baby chicks and dandelions, all spring time yellow and cheery, and inscribed with festive springtime purple ink:
Happy Easter!
with hugs
from Aunty
(hope to meet you one day soon!)
Hope to meet you one day soon?

You guys, Christ is not the only one rising from the ashes this holiday season. Someone is really taking the spirit of Easter to heart. I feel like Mary Magdalene over here.

Please pass the wine.


My kids are TEN and SIX, "Aunty". And until this year, they have never even heard your name. Because I had been told to mind my own business, and I took that advice. They may meet you one day, but it's not a priority of mine - and somehow I don't think it's going to be quite what you are hoping for. I'm pretty busy minding my own business over here so I really can't make any promises.

But it is Easter. It is springtime. Things are coming back to life outside my window. Maybe things can come back to life on the inside as well.

I'll think about it.

Bring more wine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

They're probably not going to let us back in Kmart anymore, either.

I don't think I am allowed back in KMart. At the very least, they are going to turn all security cameras in my general direction if I ever darken the doorstep again - enough to make me think twice. And we have already stopped going to Walmart as a family. Maybe that's a good thing. I should just stop shopping at the big box stores altogether.

I know this.

But Lucy had $5 of birthday money burning a hole in her pocket, and I promised her she could go to KMart and pick something out. I didn't tell her the $5 was barely going to cover a pack of gum - she would figure that out eventually - because I knew the trip would only take 10 minutes. And when she asked and I agreed, it bought me 3 hours of peace and quiet last week.

Worth it.

Or at least, I thought so.

Looking back, I see that I should have put it off another day or two. I had promised to take her Wednesday, after cooking class and soccer. But last Wednesday, after that cooking class, I was already rattled. feverish and achy, sipping a cup of tea and basically struggling just to get through the day. I had spent an hour sitting on the field through soccer practice, and now we were on our way to KMart. Lucy was giddy, Max was sweaty, I was dizzy and nauseous.

We walked through the door and headed straight for the toy section. Lucy took a hard right into "the pink aisle" as we call it in our family. The aisle filled with baby dolls and Barbie dolls and Easy Bakes and Disney Princesses. We took our time, perusing both sides of the aisle. Max gave a wave and headed down to Legos.

Of course.

Lucy chose a toy right away - one of the huge doll heads that you can practice hairstyles with, because she is learning how to braid her own hair. But she wanted to look a bit more. After a few minutes, I noticed Lucy was.......dancing. Not quite grabbing her crotch - she's a bit old for that - but sort of.....bouncing, with her knees together and a pained expression.

"Luce? Do you need to pee?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yep you need to pee, or yep you're sure you don't."
"I don't." She never took her eyes off the shelves, but she continued mincing around, knees locked together and then suddenly, she looked at me, as though my question had taken several minutes to actually permeate the cloud of pink and reach her brain.
"MOMMY." she almost gasped, as the color drained from her face. "I have to pee RIGHT NOW."

There was no delaying this - I could only hope she wasn't going to pee as we ran at top speed to the far end of the store - exactly opposite where we were standing. I was afraid to pick her up, I just decided we were going to run for it.

But I had to get Max.

"MAX!" I shouted as I ran through the toy department. "MAX!"
There was no reply. But remembering the cloud of pink that appeared to dull my daughter's senses, I thought perhaps there was an equivalent in Legos.
Still nothing. I was racing back and forth, looking down each toy aisle, and he was nowhere. I looked back at Lucy, who's face was reflecting a combination of panic, terror, and pain.

We had to go. We had to leave Max.
This was a fucking nightmare.

I raced across KMart with a firm grip on Lucy's wrist - she was practically airborne behind me as I whisked her through the store and towards the food court. I spotted a huge display of Easter baskets and threw the dolls head into it as we ran by. Just as we passed the main entrance, Max came tearing into the store.

Tearing INTO the store.
From outside.
From. The. Parking. Lot.

I had to prioritize. Lucy to potty, THEN I could give him hell.
But I had time to warn him. I shouted over my shoulder as we ran towards the bathroom door, with an orange cone out front. Why was there an orange cone out front? Was it out of order? Closed for cleaning? I didn't care why the cone was there. We ran past it, and I was still shouting as the door closed behind us, leaving Max standing outside by the water fountain.

"Where the HELL where you dude? You went OUTSIDE? You left the STORE? I AM GOING TO KILL YOU JUST AS SOON AS YOUR SISTER PEES."

As soon as I got Lucy into a stall, I ran back outside - lest he decide to exit the store again.

"Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You left the STORE? Are you OUT OF YOUR MIND?"

I was panting slightly, achy and woozy from the running and the fever. And I was completely bewildered. Max was near tears, dirt smudged across his face, hair pressed to his head with sweat.

"Mom," he started.

"DID SOMEONE TAKE YOU OUT OF THIS STORE?" I wanted to be sure I understood what had happened.

"No, Mom, I-"

"So you went out on your own? You left the store of your own free will. You just LEFT THE STORE? This is what you are saying? Please tell me I am misunderstanding this. Please tell me someone tried to kidnap you and you wrestled away from their grasp. TELL ME YOU DID NOT LEAVE KMART AND WALK OUT TO THE PARKING LOT ALONE."

"I, uh, I was just checking on something."

Just checking on something. My mind was reeling. He was 10. What was he doing in the parking lot? What was he checking? Had he stolen something? Was he smoking? WAS I LOSING MY FUCKING MIND?

Lucy came out of the bathroom slowly, looking greatly relieved.

I glared at Max, and turned to leave the bathroom alcove. And that is when I realized that every single person in the food court, and the front of the store, and possibly even the back of the store, had heard me.

The parents looked at me with sympathy. Their kids all grinned at someone else getting busted. The cashiers looked horrified. The security guy stood there staring at me.

I put my head up and straightened my shoulders, and marched back to the registers without making eye contact. I plucked the doll's head out of the display of Easter baskets and got in line. Max was behind me, looking miserable.

"Please explain to me," I began again in a (slightly) quieter voice 'what the heck you were doing outside alone." The woman in line behind us looked back and forth, hanging on every word, waiting for his answer.

"I was looking for the car."

"WHY were you looking for the car? You were with me when I parked it."

He looked sheepish. "I thought you had left."

I shot a quick look at the woman behind us in line, who was covering her mouth to hide her smirk. "You thought I had left. Really. You thought I would leave a store and drive away without my kid? Have I ever in your entire life ever forgotten you anywhere? EVER?"

He looked down. "No." he muttered.

"So you want me to believe that story?"

silence. The whole line was silent. The cashier stopped ringing up the Friskies for the lady in front of us, and everyone stood there for a moment.

"I would never EVER forget you." I spoke very calmly and firmly now that the crisis had passed. I looked at Lucy, and back at Max. "I would NEVER leave a store without you."

"Yes mom." he spoke in a low voice, and scuffed his feet.

The cashier went back to scanning the cans, and the customers let a collective breath, and Max looked up at me. "Hey mom, I saw some Legos that I wanted. Can I go ba-"

"Max, not only can you not go back, but I am pretty sure we will never be coming here again."

"Right." he said, nodding.
"Right." I said.
"Whew." Lucy said. "I am so glad I got my dolly first."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I didn't realize that by teaching a cooking class I was providing their sole source of food for the day.

I've been sick all week. So of course, yesterday was the perfect day to teach the cooking class I volunteered to lead at the kids' school. I debated calling in, but I had promised and they really seem to enjoy it. And it was just a cold. So I washed my hands and went to school and led a small group of 4th and 5th graders through the process of making sushi rolls. The biggest challenge of the class was trying to prevent the kids from eating the ingredients while we were cooking.

"So we're going to start with this rice. I steamed i-"

"Can I eat that?"

"Well, no sweetheart, you can't eat it, it's an ingredient - we need it! So we're going to take plain old rice and make sushi rice out of it. We do that by mixing rice vinegar and sugar, like this, and then drizzling it over th-"

"Can I drink that?"

"No, no...can't drink it. It's vinegar, it wouldn-"

"But it's got sugar in it - I like sugar!"

Everyone nodded in agreement, solemnly.

"We are not going to drink it, because it's an ingredient - we're going to use it!" I said with a big fake smile. "So, we pour the mixture over the rice and then we toss it like-"

"Can I do that?"

"Well of course you can, here you go!" and tossing commenced. Enthusiastic tossing. Rice was flying everywhere. I tried to wipe some off the table but one of the kids dove on top of it, covering it defensively.


"Um, it's dirty."


I casually continued to sweep it off the table into the trash. "I think we should just focus on the cooking. OKAY I think we're done mixing it, thanks so much!" There was about a cup of rice thrown across the table, and kids were descending on it like they hadn't seen food in a week.

"So then we need to take the thinly sliced vegetables that you boys did such a gr-"


"What? What do you want to e-"

"The veggies. CAN I EAT THEM."

"Well, no. We need to put them in the sushi! Alright everyone." I said brightly. "We are ready to roll. So roll from the bottom up, and then when you are done, get your finger wet and run it along the edge of the sheet of nori to seal it."

One kid knocked an entire cup of water across the table, leaving a good bit of their prep work in a puddle, and rendering it inedible - or at least incredibly unappetizing. I tossed it out while the kids looked on, unfazed. Another student just went ahead and poured the water from his cupped hand directly onto the sushi rather than wetting his fingers - I decided to just go ahead and serve it anyway. I was grimly slicing whatever made it into a roll, and throwing the excess veggies into the compost.

"Where's the ginger?" "Can we eat it yet?" "How many pieces can we have?" "Don't throw that away!" "I need soy sauce!" "Is there wasabi?"

"ALRIGHT!" I was getting tense, my shoulders clamped up firmly between my ears. "Listen. You four split these two rolls. You four split THESE two rolls. The rest is for the other kids when they get here."

"Awwww. That's not very much!" "Where's the ginger?" "Where's the soy sauce?"

"Max!" I barked. "Please get the sauce and the ginger, sweetheart. Thank you so much." I was now outright glaring at these kids. I had spent my own money buying the ingredients, and left work early to come teach the class, and not a single person had said "Thank you." or even "This is tasty." They were bitching about their portion, and the condiments, and fighting over the plate of soy sauce, soaking up as much sauce into their rice as they could before reluctantly letting someone else stick their piece in and repeat the process.

The other kids were let out of their classes and came running at me en masse. Soon I was surrounded by 30 students, teachers and now suddenly parents were approaching.... I lowered my head and focused on my slicing.

"Can I have a piece?" "How many pieces can I have?" "Can my auntie have some?" "Can I bring a piece home to my mother?" "Is there soy sauce?" "Is there more?" "He had an extra piece, can I have an extra piece?"

And while my gut instinct was to run screaming from the room and tear off in a cloud of dust, I stayed. And smiled. And cleaned.

And next week, we're making liver. Let's see them fight over that, shall we?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When you steal a jar labeled "Disneyland Fund" you're pretty much begging for trouble

"It's official" the post on facebook said. "someone broke into my house."

The thieves had left behind the paper money - all $31 dollars of it, carefully, painstakingly saved by a single mom and her two kids towards a Disney dream - and taken the jar full of change.

The jar labeled "Disneyland Fund".

They took some other things - things that are not immedately noticed, things that are not worth as much to thieves as they were to the family they belong to. They didn't ransack the house, which leads us to believe it was a couple of punk kids just doing it for sport, thinking they were taking things that were inconsequential.

I mean, after all, they left the "real money" scattered on the kitchen floor. Who's going to hunt them down and bust them for stealing a jar full of change and some earrings from Forever21?

Oh, that's right. I KNOW WHO.

Meet the Rollergirls.

Hi, you little pisser. Guess what. By stealing that jar, you just opened a whole can of whoop ass.
Most of us are over 6 feet tall with our skates on, and fast as hell. And when we catch you, we leave a mark.

I don't know who exactly you think you are, but I thought you should know who you were fucking with.

F*&^%$ ponies

So! It's the day after my daughter's sixth birthday, and I am trying to get her birthday party together. Yes, thank you, I realize that the time to plan a party would have been BEFORE her birthday, but I have been stymied by the pony factor.

The pony factor would be the same factor as "the bouncy castle factor" or "the playspace factor" or "the conflicting date" factor - persons and/or details that are key to the celebration are unavailable, and you are left holding a stack of invitations, a bag of balloons, and reassuring a kid that wants to know whether their birthday party is going to take place before their next birthday.

This is far more frustrating than the good old "weather factor" which is something that you cannot predict (no matter what the meteorologists with their 7 day forecasts would like you to believe). The weather factor has to be dealt with on the day of the party - or, if you are really lucky, the day before - when it becomes clear that adjustments will need to be made to accomodate the current conditions.

"The pony factor" can cause a person to hold off on setting the date and sending out invites. It can lead to days of hard-hitting questions like "Mommy, am I going to have a birthday this year?" And it's all my damn fault, because she wanted to go on a pony ride, and then a friend gave us a gift certificate, and suddenly BAM we had ponies! But, as it turns out, not so much.

Pony wranglers are BUSY y'all. It's like, when you want to get your kid into a good preschool and you have to get them on the list at birth. Pony parties are, apparently, the same deal.

EVERYONE wants a pony for their birthday.
But if I don't get on their books soon, we're going to be riding ponies at Christmas.
Which would actually make for a cute holiday card, but would ensure that my newly six year old daughter will tell everyone that I promised her a pony ride for her birthday, and then forgot to schedule it in time.

Which is not entirely true. I have been trying to schedule a time - me and about 100 other parents. So I am going to leave another voicemail, and send an email, and keep my fingers crossed that somehow, someday, we will ride ponies for her birthday.

Yee fucking haw.
To her credit, my daughter does have a plan B, which she deems an acceptable substitute.


So, I really gotta get on this pony thing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April. It giveth, and it taketh away

It's ironic that my daughter was born in April.

After years of trying to have children, we had finally started to give up hope. The fertility drugs weren't working. The operations weren't helping. The endometriosis had ruined me, really. It had worked it's way into every part of my life, had taken it over. And I was devastated by the results. I could barely eat. I rarely slept. I was on autopilot. Bloated with fertility drugs. The pain was mind-numbing. Or maybe it was the narcotics they gave me to dull the pain that left me feeling so numb.

In retrospect, it was probably better that I was numb.

April is Endometriosis awareness month. And in April 2005, I was all too aware of endometriosis and the many ways it could affect a woman.
Affect a marriage.
Affect a family.

I was 30 years old, and I wanted a second child. We wanted a second child. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. The first one certainly hadn't been. I expected to work for it. Appointment after appointment. Monthly exams. Disappointing ultrasounds. My paycheck went towards vials of precious drugs that we couldn't really afford, and that didn't appear to be doing a whole lot of good anyway. I was injected every day without flinching, and the bruises on my legs spread and blackened and the edges blurred and turned green. People would stare (this is Hawaii, after all - you can only get away with wearing jeans for so long before you just have to go for a swim) and I would meet their eyes, and glare at them.

They had no idea how much those bruises meant.

An acquaintance called, and asked if we were interested in adopting. She knew of a couple who were expecting a baby and looking for an adoptive family. I said yes of course we would be interested. My body was unreliable. Unpredictable.

It would be foolish to say no.

I called Sami, excited. Sami said no.

He didn't want to give up yet. There were things we hadn't tried.
We hadn't tried adoption, I reminded him.

What if you got pregnant? He fretted.
Then we have two babies. I was calm. But I was not changing my mind.

He reluctantly agreed that there was no harm in saying we were open to the idea of adoption.
After all, I reminded him gently. Think of the odds. People wait years, pay tens of thousands of dollars to adopt an infant. What are the odds that someone on our little island would give us a baby?

It turns out, our odds were pretty good.

One day, right in the middle of April, my phone rang. I was walking across the street to work, when a voice said "Congratulations, you have a daughter. She is waiting for you at the hospital."

And she was.

Endometriosis took away my ability to get pregnant, but it did not take away my ability to have children. And anyone who is reading this, who is waiting and hoping and trying to have a child, please remember that even in the month dedicated to awareness of this ugly disease, beautiful things can happen.

Happy Birthday, beautiful. I could never come up with a better gift then the one I was given the day you were born.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The ultimate 1st world problem: I haven't got time to answer my texts

While people are fighting for their lives around the globe, struggling just to find food to eat, clean water to drink, shelter, clothing, searching desperately for family members or a way to let them know they are safe..... I am sitting here completely flummoxed by communication: by the daily bombardment of texts, emails, posts, messages, voicemails, and tweets.

I really hope you aren't still waiting for the thank you card from Christmas. Christmas 2009.
Or the text from last night, for that matter.

I am completely incapable of utilizing my cellphone in a productive manner anymore.

I don't mean to make light of this. It's not funny - it's awful. And it's rude.

My social media accounts and wireless devices are ruining me.

My mother might as well be waiting for a collect call from some war-torn country, for the amount of time she has to wait for a call back from me. Several friends have resorted to communicating with me via facebook. And my darling aunts and brothers keep emailing me, to no avail. I read the messages and emails - I DO, I SWEAR I DO - but I am reading them in the carpool line. Or in the grocery store. Or at 7am when I turn on my phone and it starts dinging and vibrating and flashing and alerting itself right off the counter and onto the kitchen floor.

It's happened.

And I make an attempt to respond immediately, usually very briefly, from my Blackberry, standing at the kitchen counter in my robe or pulled over on the side of the road or waiting in line to check out. But rarely do I actually sit down and go back through all of the messages to give each one the attention and proper response it deserves. Because when I DO finally sit down at my computer, there is a whole slew of new messages in there. And then the phone rings. And then I get two new texts. And before you know it I have worked myself into a panic, turned off the phone AND the computer, and climbed back into bed.


I can't be alone in this.
Am I alone in this?
Are there people out there that are juggling 8 different forms of communication and still able to function in hte real world? Have they had a conversation with a live person, face-to-face, lately? Have they gone out to dinner without checking their cellphone during a lull in the conversation?

My husband chooses not to engage. He has a phone. He rarely texts. He doesn't have a personal email address. He doesn't belong to facebook. Or twitter.

And I am starting to think he has got the right idea. Maybe it does need to be all or nothing. Maybe I don't need to document every activity on three different accounts, with photos. I really don't think anything I have to say is so pressing that it needs to be tweeted in a parking lot, or texted from the side of the road.

Unless it's something important, like "bacon is on sale" or "I just saw Eddie Vedder". Because that, of course, is just providing a public service.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On death and divorce and feeling defeated.

I am of a certain age. My contemporaries are in two stages of life:

They are either finally getting married after spending their 20's footloose and fancy free, up until their biological clock became truly deafening and/or the dating pool thinned so far as to leave them aground, gasping for air like the goldfish that keeps throwing herself out of her goldfish bowl onto my kitchen counter.

Alternatively - and as is the case more often - my friends got married young, did some breeding, and now find themselves parenting and driving carpool and paying the bills, all while looking around thinking "What the hell just happened?" and "So, um, am I middle-aged yet, or what?"  A lot of us are splitting up or trying to avoid divorce, getting fat or trying desperately to lose weight, coloring our hair or going gray. Our parents are starting to get older, people around us (including spouses and friends) are dying, the world is a fucking mess and we don't know how to fix it, and frankly, it's just not a whole lot of fun up in here.

As my friend Jen said on facebook last week - "I preferred the weddings and babies stage much more than the death and divorce stage." True that.

I am tired these days, not sleepy, although there is that....but weary. It's seems like it is all bad news these days, and I have reached my maximum capacity for shock and grief and dismay. Last week, we got yet another call letting us know that yet another set of beloved old friends were suddenly involved in a divorce - it was messy, and accusations were flying. My husband came in to tell me - stunned. He didn't see it coming. I didn't expect it, but it was just the latest in a long list of surprises lately.

"We're okay, right?" he asked, as he leaned against the kitchen counter watching me.
I stopped loading the dishwasher and straightened up.
I looked him in the eyes and sighed. "Of course we are. We are more than okay. We're solid."

"I love you." he reminded me.

"I know." I replied. "Just don't fuck anybody."

"I'm not." he reassured me.
"I know."

He leaned forward, grinning "Just yo-"

"I just wanted to be clear. You and only you."

"Dude, you don't have time to fuck anyone else."

"Well, there's that." he reached for a stack of bills.

I went back to loading the dishwasher. Then I stopped, took off my pants, and threw them at him.
And I returned to the dishes in my thong.

"Hey, thanks for that." he leaned over the counter for a better look.
"Just keeping the home fires burning, there, dude."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sham Pag Nay is the proper pronounciation, I believe

Years ago, I used to appear from time to time on my boss' radio show. Eventually, she stopped paying for the slot, and so my illustrious broadcasting career came to an end.

Or so I thought.

Last week she sent me an email. "Just signed a new deal with the station" it said. "Back on the air. But I am going out of town so I need someone to be in the studio - you interested?"

Now, let's just skip over the fact that she committed to being on the air when she knew she was going to be out of town. And let's forget that I am no longer her assistant, responsible for saving/covering her ass on a day to day basis, in addition to attending meetings she didn't want to go to in her stead, decorating her home and office, driving her to the airport, and taking pictures for her profile. Even when I was tasked with the most self-esteem crushing tasks, she was good to me. She paid me - on time, and very well. She offered me flex time when I had small children. She let me keep working for her on my own terms when I decided I couldn't be her assistant anymore. She was the ultimate at-arms-length auntie to my kids. And besides, it's all water under the bridge - because Daffodil was getting herself some airtime. I just love a big mic and a nice set of earphones, don't you?

I called her a few days before the show. "What are we going to be talking about? Do you want me to make a list of specials to share with the listeners?" I just *love* being on the radio. Oh, I really do. I was excited. I wanted to have an assignment, wanted to prepare, wanted to practice my soft, tinkling on-air laughter and witty repartee.

No, she assured me. Everything was under control. She had a plan. And she was bringing champagne, just like old times. It was her signature to pop a bottle of champagne during the show, just like Robin Leech with his "champagne wishes and caviar dreams". And I may not be rich and famous, but I like good champagne. And my boss always drinks good champagne.

On Friday, I made my much-anticipated return to the airwaves. That morning I received several texts from friends along the lines of "I just heard - OMG" and "I can't believe you are doing this to yourself" and "Are you getting paid for this? Because you should be getting paid for this." At about 10:30 I got a phone call.

"I am on my way to town, I need new tires and they might not be done in time, so there is a chance I'll need you to pick me up and give me a ride to the station." I looked at the clock, did the math, realized there was no way the tires would be on in an hour, and started getting dressed in anticipation of leaving the house earlier than planned.

When I pulled up, she was sitting in a gorgeous outfit,  perfectly made up, next to a stack of tires. Sitting across from her was a really grubby looking old dude, who was sneaking peeks at her cleavage from behind his newspaper. She was perched on a small metal chair, working on her laptop with her phone to her ear. My phone began to ring. Of course. She was calling me. I answered the phone.

"Where are y-" She started to ask.

"Hang up the phone and get in the car!" I hollered through the open window, waving my phone in the air.

We raced through traffic to the station. A few minutes down the road she announced that perhaps she should take some notes in preparation for the show.

"You don't have any notes?" I was beside myself. "You should probably get a handle on that."
"Oh!" She suddenly paused, pen in mid air. "I forgot the the champagne!" She looked around wildly, as though her desperate need for a chilled bottle of bubbly was going to manifest a liquor store. "Are we passing someplace that sells champagne? We must be!"

"No." I said flatly. We were due at the station in four minutes, and I was weaving the Mini through traffic with my jaw clenched. "I'll drop you off at the station and go find some."

"Just go buy some from Tom." she suggested.

I pulled up to the station just as the clock hit 12 noon. She hopped out and ran inside, I tuned in to the show and went in search of champagne. "My sidekick is on her way to the station" she was telling her listeners. "She's not my assistant anymore, so when she was late to pick me up today I got a little nervous!"

I clenched my jaw tighter.

"And now she is off running a little errand for me, but she'll be back soon!" she continued.
"She's bringing her special sparkle!" the radio host chimed in. They giggled. Good god.
"It is our signature," my boss explained "to pop a bottle of champagne at the beginning of each show."
"Yes," the host recalled. "You always had such good champagne."

Then they spent a few minutes strolling down memory lane, reflecting on all of the myriad ways I had been humbled as her assistant in the past, as I sat in traffic, horrified. I pulled into a loading zone, ran in to the bistro and found Tom. I explained what I needed and he fixed me with a level, unblinking gaze. "I am sold out of champagne" he informed me over his glasses. "I sold my last bottle a week ago." I couldn't tell if he was really out of champagne or if he wanted to make a point to my boss that she could not just send people into his restaurant expecting him to sell her a bottle of booze.


He suggested the gas station down the road, and I ran there in stilettos, tiptoing down the sidewalk and dashing straight to the corner where the wine was kept. There was one dusty, foil topped bottle left. Not only was it not champagne, it was on the shelf. Warm, cheap, sparkling wine. I would never in a million years drink it.

It was perfect.

I stomped into the studio 5 minutes later, out of breath and furiously tweeting and texting, with the paper-wrapped bottle clamped under my arm. I was greeted warmly by the host and my boss, and I slid the bottle out of the bag and set it down on the counter. My boss blanched at the label, shuddered, and kept talking into the microphone. I pulled out the slurpee cups I had swiped out of the dispenser near the checkout, and the host covered her mouth, trying to hide a smile.

I unwrapped the bottle and they looked at me nervously. I wasn't gong to actually make them drink it, was I?

Oh yes. Oh MY yes. It's a signature.

"And where did you manage to find the champagne?" my boss asked with barely disguised distaste.
I leaned towards the mic so no one would miss a single syllable and turned to her, leering. "The gas station."
 There was a moment of silence. I removed the wire from the cork.

"Gosh." said my boss, in a chipper tone. "How do you pronounce the name of that brand?"

"You don't." I said flatly. "When you are drinking champagne from a gas station, not only do you not announce the brand, you drink it out of a slurpee cup." I popped the cork and began to pour.

"OH," the host held up her had to stop me "Just a little for me!" I smiled and topped off her cup.
"Oh my," my boss remarked as she took her first sip. "It's, um...."
"It's sweet!" the host chimed in.

Yes. I am nothing if not sweet.