Chickens and Other New Friends

Posted: May 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Daddio, Discoveries, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Little Rhody, Mama Posse, Miss Kate | 5 Comments »

What can I say? I’m my father’s daughter.

Which is to say that I love people. To the extent that any time I encounter someone new, I get all silly excited and need to cinch in my personality girdle so as not to freak them out and scare them away with my unleashed extroversion and super power of non-stop talk.

I get all “Can I pet the rabbits, George? Of Mice and Men Lenny-like. Fearful that my over enthusiastic adoration could result in the tragic unintended death of the very objects of my delight.

So, my Dad. My wedding presented him with a thrilling experience to revel in a sea of humans. Many new people to him—friends of Mark’s and mine who he’d heard about over the years, and who represented a fine pool of pre-approved potential cohorts.

And it was so easy. They were all conveniently making their way to his small town, a special delivery straight into his social lair.

Fresh blood!

The day before our wedding, our most excellent friend Gary—whom I like to talk about here in hopes that as my most devoted reader and fervid lurker I might incite or somehow bewitch him to post a comment—was meeting us at my Dad’s house to help Mark with the rehearsal dinner booze run. (Gary being, quite literally, an expert in the alcohol arts.)

Mark and I got hung up in the Mayberry-like town office where we had to get our marriage license, running past the time when we’d asked Gary to arrive at Dad’s. Under normal circumstances this would be no big thing. It wasn’t like Gary’d not be understanding about our lateness, or frankly had much else to do that lazy afternoon on his visit to Bristol, Rhode Island. He was, quite gallantly, at our service.

But as Mark and I made our way through the painfully slow air-conditioning-free paper pushing, there was a certain low grade agitation we felt to hurry the process along. Gary was one of the first guests in town and was arriving alone and unwittingly at my father’s door. The poor guy had no idea how he was presenting himself directly into the eye of the storm. It was like my father was standing there rubbing his hands together, desperate to ensnare the first object of his charm, intellectual banter, and letter-writing. (Dad is, perhaps single-handedly, working to keep the practice of letter writing alive. He developed no less than three new correspondents at our wedding who I believe he still communicates with via the USPS to this day. Some day I’ll tell you about his writing a letter to me nearly every day I was at college. Oh, and his envelope art.)

Anyway, who was I? I mean, where are you?

Right then. My Dad. And Gary. Once Mark and I had our marriage license in our literally sweaty hands, we hopped into our car like Bo and Luke Duke, slapping the rooftop through the open windows and hooting that we needed to get to the house and pull my dad off Gary, stat.

On the short drive through town, around about the sea wall coming up to the house, we see my father’s car approaching and then, like a slow dream sequence, passing by us, with Dad driving and Gary in the passenger seat—looking out and mutely beseeching us with wide eyes.

“My God, he’s got him!” I squealed to Mark, slapping a hand down on the dashboard. “Damn it, where the hell is he taking him? Do you think we should put out an Amber Alert?”

Blessedly, moments after passing us, we saw Dad’s car slow down and turn around, heading back to the house. And in the driveway learned that, after all the waiting around in the living room, my father offered to give Gary a tour of the jewel of our small peninsula-shaped town, its beautiful harbor, or ‘HAAA-buh’ as Gary put it, not unkindly (or inaccurately) emulating Dad’s local accent.

Anyway, the fact is, Dad’s one hell of a charming and interesting guy, and was adored by young and old alike that weekend. But it’s fun to make fun of his rabid new friend fetishism, mostly because I think if I talk about him a lot, it’ll detract people’s attention from mine.

In the past several months we’ve gotten a new batch of neighbors around here. And I’m all a’tremble with the excitement of it all.

For an excessively social stay-at-home mother, fresh blood in the neighborhood is tantamount to having your best friend move into your prison block ward. These are the few people who, aside from the ones that I gave birth to and whose noses and asses I tend to wiping, I get to see and interact with every day. To most people, a friendly nod from the mail man is a fleeting blip with no notable social merit. But to me, a raging people person who’s often confined to my domestic workplace like a wild cur tethered by a chain to a spike, even the smallest outlets for social stimulation are greedily devoured, wholeheartedly savored.

One set of new neighbs are an adorable unmarried couple who happen to be the former tenants and chums of my Mama Posse friend Mary. And get this, she’s a children’s clothing designer! How lucky is that? It’s like having a member of Schlitz family royalty move in next door to your alcoholic ass. She’s even already given the girls a bag packed with beautiful brand new duds—free!

On the other side of us, a deeeelightful sweet funny couple, two guys, relocated from Palm Springs. It was all I could do to not drool on their fabulous mid-Century furniture (that aqua couch!) the day they moved in. Never mind harboring secret fantasies of us all shoe shopping, or doing home avocado and oatmeal facials while watching old timey movies—me snugged on the couch between them, them not knowing how they ever got on before knowing me.

And then across the street, the object of my latest most ardent friendship crush, is a hilarious quirky columnist for the local alt weekly, a fried-chicken crazed foodie, musician, and, get this, nanny! I mean, hell-o-ooo. Pinch me!

Each time I see one of these people on the sidewalk, it takes every morsel of my self-restraint to not wrap my arm around their heads in that about-to-give-a-noogie stance, and just squeeze them with love and unbridled joy. (Note earlier excessive-rabbit-petting Lenny-like behavior.)

Tonight we went to the kids clothes couple’s house to meet their new chickens. Well, chicks really at this point. Turns out they’re requisitioning a part of their large front yard to, yes, chicken farming.

And I must confess that, beyond Kate’s immediate through-the-roof delight to hear her very own petting zoo was moving in two doors down, it took me a bit longer to come around to this idea. Chickens? I mean, I’m not sure where chickens are supposed to live, but isn’t it in some large unsanitary warehouse-like facilities where they’re tightly packed and pooping on each other before they make their way to Styrofoam and plastic grocery store packaging? Or, barring that, out grazing on some wide open farm in Sonoma, tended to by kind hippie folk? I wasn’t sure how to meld our urban-suburban Rockridge ‘hood with the concept of live poultry.

But I can follow a social cue like a Lab on a pheasant. When these neighbors would remark about other people’s reactions to their chicken-adopting news, they’d say things like, “She was all, chickens?! Aren’t they loud?” or “Wait, won’t chickens SMELL?” And I was all laughing alongside them and scoffing at the petty ignorance of those other neighbors, when really I was thinking, “Well, uh, aren’t they? Don’t they?”

But, you know, wanting to be one of the cool people, before you knew it I was leading the scoffing sessions with other newcomers. “Can you believe she thought that chickens would be crowing in the morning like roosters? How naive!”

Tonight as we were huddled inside Chicken Daddy’s small bathroom, where the chicks are in a crate with a heat light til they’re robust enough for coop livin’, Kate and some of the other neighbor kids got turns holding the little puff balls. And another Mom and I remarked on the cuteness of the two with racing stripes down their backs, which we learned were called Americanas, which in my mind for some reason sounded like some kinda Cuban cigar. But what do I know.

Chicken Daddy started talking about how the gender of the chicks is determined by someone called a, get this, chicken sexer. (Or should that be “Chicken Sexer” with caps?) But how weird-slash-cool is that? The way a chick’s gender is determined is, he alleged, a well-guarded secret and something that’s actually impossible to assess by just looking at the wee thing’s privates. And so, these people called—I just have to say it again—Chicken Sexers, do some sort of black magic juju laying of the hands or something on these chicks and proclaim with astonishing accuracy whether you’ve got yourself an egg-layer or a crowing cock.

But I was running late for Baxter’s yoga class, much as I wanted to stay and learn more, when Chicken Daddy started to say something about some big renowned Chinese Chicken Sexer, that I really wished I could have stuck around to hear. Like this Chinese dude is the Chicken Sexer Grand Master or guru or something, who holds the secret and is never wrong. Must hear more about this person, and print out a poster of him for my closet door.

Anyway, so it looks like at some point down the road we’ll be getting some fresh fresh eggs from down the road. And Kate will start spending time communing with the local chickens instead of begging to watch Blues Clues, or taking up drugs. And frankly what a breath of fresh—if not slightly chicken-shit fetid—air that’ll be.

Plus, it’ll give me an excuse to get out there and bask in the glow of all our divine new neighbor folk, who I just can’t wait to get my hands on.


We Love Gay

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Books, City Livin', Friends and Strangers, Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Little Rhody, Miss Kate | 1 Comment »

A few years ago we went to a wedding in Philadelphia, the bride’s hometown, and I was blindsided by just how much I liked it there.

And I wasn’t alone. Throughout the weekend other guests from San Francisco made comments to the bride like, “This is actually a pretty cool city. Who knew?” Backhanded compliments, for sure.

Living in the Bay Area for more than 16 years now makes me often wonder about what life’s like elsewhere. But since moving is so complicated, and we’re forever stymied about where it is we’d go, I process most of my curiosity through pretend play.

So one morning when we were at that wedding in Philly, I woke up, rolled over and said to Mark, “Let’s pretend we live here, okay? So… Here we are! We live in Philadelphia! What should we do today in this city that we live in?”

Mark humored me for a short time, but ultimately found the game more absurd than socially enriching. And of course, he’ll never forget it. Sometimes still if I’m doing or saying something, he’ll turn to me and ask, “Are we pretending we live in Philadelphia again?”

One of the other places I invariably find myself fantasizing about being a resident of is my wee hometown of Bristol, RI. Or at least some place like it.

On our recent visit there I took the girls to the town’s newly expanded stone facade library. In the fabulous new children’s area–replete with huge windows, soft-sided animal-shaped chairs, bins filled with toys, an outdoor path through a lovely little garden, and of course books books books–I couldn’t resist imagining that the girls and I would be regulars there if we lived in town. Bringing them to proudly return books in the drop slot, pick out a new batch, and sit in on story time–all at the very library on whose once-mildewy basement carpet I spent many childhood afternoons of my own.

The other folks there during our visit–a father with a boy somewhere between Kate and Paige’s age–were hardly the friendly cohorts I was hoping to encounter. Paige made every opportunity to engage them, and her powers of charm are nearly bionic, virtually impossible to resist. But somehow, in what I attributed to a brusque New England attitude, both father and son barely made eye contact with us. Likely even found our presence there annoying.

It was nearly enough to shatter my sunny we-live-here-now fantasy.

So anyway, a few months ago when I was throwing dinner together, Kate was playing on the kitchen floor with Paige and announced, “Mama, I’m gay!”

Which, hey, is fine and all, but I have to admit, coming from a three-year-old took me a bit off guard.

But I managed to find a kindly response that also aimed to garner more information. “Oh really, honey? How’s that?”

Kate, who was encircled by books–a fairly typical setting for her–held up one with the pages open outwardly to face Paige, and explained, “I’m gay, and it’s story time, and Paige is one of the children coming to story time.”

(Then to Paige in a slightly affected tone.) “Good morning, children! Welcome to story time!”

At which point I realized she meant Gay–capital ‘G’–not gay, gay. Gay being the name of the beloved grandmotherly children’s librarian right here in Rockridge.

Now Kate adores Gay and it’s easy to see why. She is adorable, though not in a baby bird kinda way.

Once I was walking behind a klatch of mother’s who were heading to the park after story time and they were all cooing over how much they dig it when Gay reads books–doing all the voices for different characters and singing songs that require you to move you hands one way or another to act out things as you sing. As much as you can’t imagine enduring this stuff as a non-parent, trust me, it’s equaling surprising to find yourself one day getting into it.

In fact, I’m sometimes like a maniac getting us out the door so we don’t miss Gay’s opening “Good morning dear Earth, Good morning dear Sun” song that somewhere along the line I decided I just love love love and that in its simple way makes me kinda sorta just happy.

Chalk it up to sleep deprivation, a deficiency of daytime adult conversation, and the presence of a kindly woman who’s happy to entertain my kids for a half-hour–somehow that story time gives me as much a hit of serotonin as it gives the wee ones for whom it’s intended.

After the stories–which are always related to some sort of train or family or mitten theme–Gay is besieged by the small beasties, reaching out to get either a sheet to color in, or a sticker. She even gave out blueberries one day after reading the Maine classic Blueberries for Sal. Something I found generous and fun, and delicious for greedy blue-mouthed Kate, even if there was a part of my brain I was trying to ignore that was wondering, “Are-they-organic?”

During my “office hours” here at Chez McClusky I’m often surprised by the small things that trigger Kate’s curiosity. They’re usually such commonplace things it’s weird to realize Kate has no clue about them. You know, like what happens to stuff we put in the recycling bin, how corn is grown (not on a tree!), that dogs have a special sense of smell. Often whatever Kate and I are discussing turns into the thing that she wants to get books about at the library.

On Tuesday we made applesauce, and Kate got all freaky-obsessed over the seeds–as she’s wont to do–which got me explaining about Johnny Appleseed, which got Kate wanting a book about him from the library. Plus, after listening to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack for years now, I recently mentioned that the music was from a movie–actual live-action footage that could come to her through the TV, a rare treat. This information had her nearly blow a gasket.

So on drizzly Tuesday we sauntered to the library, just a two block walk from home. Kate got Gay in her cross hairs immediately and run up to her desk, pumping adrenaline and panting as if she were about to evacuate a burning building. “Gay! Gay!! Do you know what? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang IS A MOVIE. Did you know that? Do you have the movie, Gay? And also, you know what? We want to get a book about Apple Johnnyseed too. Do you have that, Gay?”

Gay’s reaction is perfect. She mirrors Kate’s excitement in a genuine way that makes me feel like she gets Kate–and truly likes her. A mother’s joy. And while she looks up whatever Kate requested–she’s animatedly sharing factoids about “Johnny Appleseed, sweetie, not Apple Johnnyseed.” And she pokes out a finger towards Paigey’s belly. “Hello, Little Sister. Don’t you look proper today in your wool hat.”

My excitement to interact with Gay is nearly as great as Kate’s. I just keep it more on the DL. Although I doubt she even knows our names, Gay is someone who, in the midst of some seemingly endless empty days of having to find this or that thing to do with the kids, knows us. Which can sometimes provide just the amount of comfort that I need to change my perspective on the day.

But after Paigey’s poke it’s back to Kate. And I stand back as Gay shows her a few different book options which she paws through quickly, while whining, “The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang DVD! I need that too!”

Ah, ever the ingrate.

Prompting me to remind Kate to use her manners. And Gay to dismiss my comment with an unspoken don’t-you-worry-about-that-we-have-business-to-conduct-here-Kate-and-I as she ambles over to the movie section.

“Oh you are right!,” she clucks. “I did almost forget that, didn’t I? Now let’s make sure no one else has taken that out…”

Thank you, thank you, Gay, for being our most exceptional small town librarian in this big city of Oakland. We are oh so lucky to have you, parents and children alike.

What’s more, whenever we see you I don’t even have to pretend we live here.

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Not Quite Ready to Be Set Free

Posted: January 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Superhero, Miss Kate, Mom, My Body, My Temple, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop | 2 Comments »

Yesterday was Kate’s first visit to a dentist. And as we sat in the cheesy Hawaiian-themed waiting room, another mother came in with two older kids. Her daughter immediately flounced to the floor to engage with Paigey. And the mom pulled up a tiny surfboard shaped chair, sat, and smiled down at them.

After a few minutes she looked up at me and said, “Please pardon the loud rumblings from my uterus.” A comment which took me a beat to grock, but then totally slayed me.

Me: “Oh God, I hear you. She’s my baby and she has the same effect on me.”

Her: “Here I am, I’m 43, and I already have three kids. When’m I going to get over this?”

Which brings me to the rhetorical question, just how supremely do women rock?

I love that within three minutes of being in each others’ orbits this total stranger and I are revealing our deep down irrational-but-real want-another-baby cravings. It’s the kind of intimacy that some men who were college roommates and have been playing tennis together every Saturday since the first Bush administration still haven’t achieved.

And her remark is timed perfectly to my just-the-other-night musings. Paige refused to nurse, which had me convinced she was harboring a devastating rife-with-hearing-loss ear infection. (I’ve never understood when mother’s say their kids just stopped wanting to nurse one day, since that’s so not been how my boob-junkie kids roll.)

Paigey was back to her old milk-chugging self a few hours later, but the experience got me thinking as I was a-sway on the ugly Dutalier glider. If I were to suddenly stop breastfeeding, it seems like I’d need to put my body to another practical use. Truly. In much of the past four-and-a-half years I’ve either been gestating or breastfeeding, and odd as it is even for me to realize, it’s set me in a kind of groove I’m not sure how to get out of.

Doing neither of those things seems so, uh, kinda lazy. Or maybe it’s not that so much as just not productive enough.

Years ago when Mark (then I) started seriously obsessing over cooking, we read Michael Ruhlman’s excellent The Making of a Chef–a great first person account of a foodie journalist being thrown into the mix at the hardcore Culinary Institute of America. Aside from food chemistry and knife skills, clean-as-you-go, and never serve anything that you know ain’t right, one of the critical things you learn at cooking school is how to be crazy efficient. If the walk-in’s at the end of the kitchen, you think of all the things you’ll need from there so you can make just one trip. And on the way back to your station you grab the Chinoise or mixing bowls or grater that you’ll need from the drying racks. It’s all piled up in front of you so your arms are breaking and you can barely see, but the other thing that you learn in cooking school is cooking is hard work. That is, it’s physically taxing.

In cramped, fast-paced, and (proverbially and literally) hot restaurant kitchens, running around in circles is for rookies. It’s just not done. It confuses your mind, expends unnecessary energy and ultimately puts you in the weeds. In other words, a quick way to find yourself out on the sidewalk, considering getting an office temp job to pay the rent.

So Ruhlman. He describes how this hyper-efficient planning and intense economy of movement unsurprisingly slipped over into his out-of-the-kitchen time. (Kind of like when I played so much backgammon in college I’d look at a pub booth packed with people as a cluster of pieces–all safe since there wasn’t one sitting out alone. For my brain at least, that was the result of excessive backgammon. Imagine if I’d used that time to study!) So Ruhlman described how one day he realized he was getting ready in the morning in turbo efficient mode. Get socks and shoes and grab car keys and knife case all in one quick sweep of his apartment. Socks and shoes on mechanically fast, grab keys and knife case, and up and off you go. Or something like that.

And so here I am, just three days away from Paige’s first birthday and realizing how this mother thing has managed to wire me in a similar way. Efficient? Yes. Getting kids bathed, diapered, dressed, fed, snacks packed, car toys grabbed, hats, sweaters, shoes that have been already pulled off put back on. All that glamor that you know every mother–including your own back in the day (call her right now and thank her, please) goes through.
But aside from the machinations of kid tendin’, there’s of course the physical connection us mothers have. And whether we’re precious about it and read non-stop about how it all works or not, it just happens. We’re using our bodies to the fullest of their capabilities, like old-school VCRs that–though baffling and unused to their max by most folks–without even reading the manual we’re instinctively able to do the trickiest things to like updating the clocks, and setting them to advance record.

It’s actually weird how mindlessly one can grow a healthy baby.

There are the glossy hair ‘I am woman hear me roar’ pregnancy highs, and the all-my-friends-are-dumb-when-they’re-drunk-and-I’m-sober resentment. Stuff even outsiders can cotton to. But more discreet, and ultimately more powerful, is the latent accustomedness your body seems to develop for being put to these practical maternal uses. So from where I’m standing, at the precipice of not having such a physical Mama task ever again, one might be left feeling somewhat un-tethered. A bit lost.

It’s the place where some woman, no doubt, feel liberated, set free. Back to one’s skinny jeans for good.

But for me, and it seems for the dental office Mama too, it’s a much harder transition. Bittersweet in all the love and intimacy and care that was associated with all those bodily demands, despite how grueling they could sometimes be. There’s an unaddressed expectation, a void that some of us reckon with, when our bodies are suddenly not called into service any more.

Perhaps I’ll have to take up tennis. My mother always played a wicked doubles game. Maybe I can just try to make that do.


Crashing and Burning Across the Finish Line

Posted: January 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Little Rhody, My Body, My Temple | No Comments »

Saturday afternoon Mark made his long-awaited return from Vegas.

He entered the house to see the typically-banned-from-TV Kate lying languid on the couch, a Sesame Street-watching zombie, hear Paige wailing miserably from her crib, and find me splayed out in bed with a brain-crushing migraine.

Not exactly the Bree Van de Kamp meets Heidi Klum greeting I’d had in mind.

But in the glamorous, fast-paced, take-no-prisoners Domestic Engineer life I lead, reality often misaligns with expectations. 

When I was in high school my friend’s little sister was crazy fired-up to have been asked to prom by a guy she’d been moony over for months. As mature oh-so-over-it-all seniors, my friend and I marveled from the sidelines as her sister dragged her mom dress shopping to every mall in Rhode Island (which I think was a staggering three shopping centers at the time, maybe four). She obsessed over limo rental, where they’d eat, and whether she could trust her best friend and her boyfriend to be sufficiently un-dorky double dates.

When the big day arrived–much to our collective relief–she bathed herself silly for hours (ah, those bygone epic soaks with Cosmo and Glamour), then got her nails done and her hair up-doed. A couple hours before the event she decided to bleach her moustache, left the stuff on too long, and burned the shit out of her upper lip.

Which just goes to show it’s sometimes the home stretch that screws you. 

As for me on Saturday, I eventually managed to drag my sorry ass out of bed and wince into dim light without recoiling in agony. And a couple hours after that I even combed the sleep-induced rat’s nest snarl out of my hair. I’m not sure I ever got around to brushing my teeth, but the way things unfurled that day I think Mark planted our long-anticpated welcome home kiss atop my aching noggin anyway.

Thankfully by yesterday I was back in the pink. We romped with the girls at the beach in Alameda, drank beers at a kid-friendly burger joint for lunch, and rolled our eyes at each other over Kate’s intermittent three-year-old no-I-won’t-ever-put-that-jacket-on fits. I got to sleep in, had what I’d humbly report was a fabulous hair day, and managed to perform myriad other maternal and wifely, uh, ‘duties’ with a little that’s-what-I’m-talkin’-about spring in my step.

Mark’s back. I’m back. Yay.  

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Confessions of a Dirty Woman

Posted: December 17th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Superhero, Misc Neuroses | 1 Comment »

No one ever thinks of themselves as being unclean, do you think? I mean, I think it’s like craziness. Those who are don’t think that they are. And therefore you can never really know if you’re dirty or crazy, or God forbid, both.

Unfortunately, as Mistress of the Mansion here, I’ve recently gotten some distressing clues about the state of our cleanliness. But instead of sweeping this information under the proverbial carpet, I thought I’d just come out and confess. Maybe sharing this will aid in getting me the help I apparently need.

So, last week for us was rife with celebration. We hosted a big fun holiday shindig Saturday night, dined in SF with visiting friends Sunday, and had an over-the-top 20-or-so course dinner at The French Laundry on Tuesday.

Wednesday, when I should’ve been holed up filling out my Betty Ford Center application, I was out schlepping the kids around somewhere. And when I unfolded what we refer to as the Silver Stroller–since anything even remotely gray is silver in Kate’s charmed world–I pulled down the rickety worthless visor to found an uneaten yet terribly unappealing crepe–strawberry and Nutella, if you must know. One that’d we’d greedily ordered as an extra and which had been wedged in the visor since our jaunt to the local Farmer’s Market uh, three days earlier. I ran it inside the house–disgustedly holding the edges of the paper plate by my fingertips like it was a live mouse–while Kate screamed after me for all the ‘hood to hear, “What is that, Mama?”

Um… Ick!

One more reason to expedite our now Silver ‘n Brown Stroller to live out the next few million years teetering atop a bunch of other abandoned crap at a dump. (Sorry, Al Gore!)

Later that very day, while preparing a sumptuous meal for my family, I reached into the cupboard for the lettuce spinner. When I opened it I nearly Edvard Munch screamed to see it already contained some lettuce. From the party on Saturday night! And what’s more, it had also developed a noisome pale green liquid sloshing around in the bottom of the bowl.

How utterly charming.

As if these two incidents–in the same day, no less–weren’t enough reason for me to call a producer from Oprah and give myself over as the subject on their next filthy housewives segment (a nice counterpoint to their always-riveting OCD hand washing shows), there’s more.

So, in the winter sometimes ants come into the house. This is not unusual for these parts, and I’m not trying to defend myself here but I will say that the ants in Northern California are SUCH WIMPS. I mean, the first small smattering of rain sends them running inside frantic-like. They’re all, “Oh, it’s wet out there! Oh, it’s chilly! We’d really be much happier trooping along in a creepy single file line around the grout in your bathtub, or swarming around that raisin your kid dropped in the front hall.”

Don’t get me wrong. We loathe, detest, and abhor the suckers. Mark wields his stink-trail killing can of lemon scented Pledge like he’s Rambo with a ‘roid rage, and undertakes what he maniacally calls a “bloody genocide” while I tend to the crying cowering children in the other room.

And, now that I’ve laid my secret ant shame bare, I’ll go so far as to reveal that at its worst I’m plagued with nightmares that I’ll come home some day and an ant will be sitting in his boxer shorts on our couch, drinking one of Mark’s Firestone Double Barrel Ales and watching Bravo reality TV.

Such attitude they have! Such entitlement! And worst of all, such large families.

But, as I said, you can litter any home around here with the highest grade free-range organic Agent Orange and a few of those little suckers will still ferret their way indoors. So, at least I know that my filth is also that of my neighbors.

Until yesterday. I was changing Miss Paige. Had her up on the changing table and cooing some lovesick Mama blather into her sweet punum, and seconds after tearing open the diaper Velcro, what do I see marching dizzily across her bare butt cheek?

Well, I think you know.

After Mark and I lamented that this was about the most tragic thing that could befall our sweet cherub’s innocent pudge, we resorted to epic overuse of the expression “ants in your pants,” and have been delightedly accusing Paige of having them since. Using cute baby voices of course.

I’ve long contended that the elevator buttons at Target were some of the dirtiest places on earth. (Think of the cumulative effect of all those germ-infested nose-pickers who insist on pushing the buttons…) But after the events of this past week, I’m fearful that there’s a considerable amount of filth much closer to home than I’d care to admit.

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Forget John Malkovich. I want a portal into Kate.

Posted: November 9th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Extended Family, Housewife Superhero, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop | 2 Comments »

I collect brother-in-laws named John. I currently only have two, but my sister Ellen is single so there is a chance that I could add a third to my set some day.

My one brother-in-law John–the Coastie who’s married to Mark’s sis, Lori–he and I have a long-standing joke about the Miller’s $30-spending-max holiday gift exchange. It goes back to when I wasn’t yet married into the family, as he was. He delighted in taunting me year after year about whether or not I’d be on the gift exchange list. Then he’d dangle his inclusion in my face by saying “Neener neener neener!”

It was clearly a very mature joke, and likely not funny to anyone other than John and me, but isn’t finding those perversely-amusing common grounds to laugh about when you’re flying on tryptophan and bourbon what brings families closer together?

So anyway, now that I’ve made the grade and am officially and securely part of the gift exchange, I got an email from Mark’s cousin Maggie’s fiance Josh. (You following that?) Due to his engaged status he’s in the mix this year (though frankly I think he was last year too and the Millers are growing a bit lax about the exclusivity of membership). He got Kate to buy for this year and wanted some ideas about what she might like.

Pondering what gift booty would delight Little Miss Kate made me realize the extent to which three-year-olds live in an altered LSD-trippy parallel universe. One where the most mundane everyday objects take on a fascinating sheen.

Like, we were at a toy store yesterday and amidst all the cool fun stuff and actual toys, Kate spotted a plastic placemat with pictures of something like goldfish on it. She woozily, adoringly clutched it to her chest like a diamond tennis bracelet from Tiffany.

“This placemat, Mama,” she whispered with reverence. “I love this placemat. Can I please get it?” Then, realizing there were others with different designs she started yanking them off the rack with delirious glee. “Oh look they have more! There’s this one? I love this too! I want all of them, Mama! Can I have all of them? Please?”

Invoking my well-honed powers of Resisting a Child’s Desire to Buy Crap, I heard myself say, “If you really want one you can ask for it for Christmas.” Then I thought what an absurd Christmas list item that is. Other kids want dolls, Legos, Thomas the Tank Engine. Kate wants a placemat. And she’d truly be BLISSED OUT to get it.

Before having kids I cracked up hearing that my friend Shelley’s son slept with his beloved Wiggles video. As in, clutching the actual video in the box, not having it playing while he slept. Well, joke’s on me when Kate spends a rainy winter night cuddled up with her stuffed dog Dottie and a placemat.

Kate’s other Christmas list items are barely better. Somewhere along the line she suddenly decided that scarves were the coolest things EVER and spent the better part of a 75-degree day pleading with me as if her existence depended on it–and how could I be so cruel as to deny her?–”I want a scarf, Mama. A SCARF! I need one right now!” The small plastic bowl with a snap-top lid that a friend recently left at our house became another object of lustful desire. They’ll be happy to know she had to hug it during several potty sessions. (I ran it through the dishwasher.) And truly I can’t think of any gift she’d love more than a package of seeds–poppy seeds, flower seeds, any type really as long as they are little and plentiful. I’d even wager you could wrap up a dust bunny in a little box and Kate would ceremoniously carry it to her altar–I mean her play kitchen–with the intensity and loving care you’d reserve for a baby bird.

Anyway, I hope all these things are providing Josh not only some good gift ideas but also the realization that, as a man on the brink of marriage, the next big plunge into parenthood could result in becoming the owner and operator of a small person who you love madly madly madly but whose passions and interests you can rarely make a whit of sense of.

But hey, it keeps things lively around here.

As for Paige, she’s also happily entrenched in her own trippy reality. Sadly we’re past the stage where she’d wave her arms around, catch sight of one hand, then slowly turn it over and back in front of her eyes, examining it as if this brilliant device was something she’d never seen before and wasn’t right there, attached to the end of her arm. God, Mark and I loved that.

If Paige was writing an online dating bio she’d add the fringe on the bottom of the couch to her list of interests. Despite whatever real toy she’s given to wrangle with on the floor, she’ll eventually roll herself over to the couch and flap one hand slowly through the tassley fringe with deep contentment.

And whenever I carry her in my front-pack and we walk under a tree, Paigey arches her whole body backwards to stare up at the leaves and the light and laugh and laugh and laugh. I mean, sure, leaves certainly are funny, but they’re not quite the laugh riot Miss P makes them out to be.

All this fascination with the mundane has made me realize how much being a mother is like working a crowd of drug-addled concert-goers. Most of the time I’m in a Stadium Security role, just trying to coral the happy trippers, and make sure it all stays mellow and fun and no one loses an eye. But inevitably somewhere in the course of the day I’m more like a Rock Doctor triaging bad trippers in a tent, helping them get through fits over inanimate objects they’re convinced have come to life to torture them. You know, managing a situation like: ” This sock is hurting me!!! It hurrrrrts meeee! Bad sock!! BAAAAAD!!”

Oh sure. A bad trip like that? I’d say I take on one of those–sometimes as many as three–nearly every day.

And to think I don’t even have a walkie talkie or a medical degree.


Sisters, Sleep, and Yard Sales

Posted: September 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: City Livin', Friends and Strangers, Housewife Superhero, Mama Posse, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Sisters | No Comments »

At 6:40 on Sunday morning when Paige babbled her wake-up call, Mark and I cracked our eyes open, smacked opened and closed our bone-dry mouths, and softly groaned as we remembered the day that stretched ahead of us. We were having a huge yard sale.

For all we knew, early birds were already prowling around our front porch with the hopes of finding some ignorantly-priced Noritake china. Having to lug everything out of the garage and around to the front yard seemed torture enough, then then Kate’s tiny voice joined the chorus with Paige. “Mama! I woke up!”

My God, we also had children to tend to. And in the wake of a supremely fun party the night before–where Mike and Myra renewed their vows on their 15th anniversary and treated their friends to an exceptionally fabulous throw down–here we were, heads throbbing, lying tangled in our sheets like some suburban American version of Sid and Nancy.

Not pretty.

It’s just more validation that my on-the-fly early morning nanny service would catch on like wildfire. If I could have picked up the phone for urgent back-up, I would’ve paid $100 an hour for childcare. Easily.

Anyway, at least I’d consumed a vat of Don’s superb pinot the night before and had good reason for my state of disarray. Whereas this past Friday, I had no alcohol-related excuse for my behavior.

So Friday. When I arrive at Megan’s house for mother’s group, she’s in her garage bent over two ride-on cars she’s assembling for the twins and she mutters between clenched teeth that she’s been in a fantastically crappy mood. It’s such a gift that Megan A) admits to her foul mood but still throws a yard party worthy of the Smith & Hawken catalog, B) is the kind of friend who doesn’t sugarcoat life when she’s bedraggled, and C) manages to do her hair in cute braids despite it all. Megan is rarely off her game, and with three kids under three, no nanny, and a hubbie with a time-sucking job, I’d be enjoying the creature comforts of a sanatorium if I were her.

Anyway, aside from her admission of it, you’d never know the woman was crabby. But then in some weird transference that we tried to make sense of later, the bad mood somehow leeched over to me. There was either some fierce ‘power of suggestion’ energy out there, or maybe some as-yet-undead part of my childhood Catholicism urged me to take it on like some priest in an exorcism. More likely it was the exhaustion that’d caught up to me from waking-in-the-night children and not sleeping well with Mark out of town.

After lunch, with some help from Mary, who impressively coaxed naked Kate (long story) back into her clothes and even her car seat while I wrangled Paige, I drove home, nearly slumping over the steering wheel, hoping the day’s excitement would warrant Little Miss Never Nap into even the smallest kip. I never sleep when the kids do, but since I caught Megan’s mood like a bad cold and was generally haggard from the night before, I’d have gladly done a swan dive into bed.

No luck. Kate invoked reserve stores of energy and refused to even play quietly in her room. So when I staggered in to feign some active parenting, I was all over her suggestion that “you be the baby and I be the mommy.”  This involved her even tucking me into her bed (bliss!). And the next thing I remember, Officer, I was fluttering my eyes open after having totally conked out. D’oh!

Thankfully the curtains were not on fire, Kate wasn’t out on the sidewalk chatting with strangers, and Paige was still safely snoozing in her crib.

The rush of maternal negligence that surged through me went unnoticed by Kate who was tootling around in her room and came over to me saying, “You woke up now, Baby! You want some milk and a snack, Baby?”

And just as I was settling in to thinking “Okay, I dozed off for a bit here but everything’s okay…” I remembered that I’d taken a sleeping Paige out the car earlier with the thought that I’d come back, grab my bag, and lock up. Which of course, I never did.

“Mommy?” I said to Kate, because God knows when she is Mommy and I am Baby I can never mistakenly call her Kate. (The house could be burning down and if I called her Kate she’d sit on the floor and scream, “My name is not Kate! I’m Snooooow Whiiiiiite!” And refuse to budge.) So I’m all, “Baby forgot something in the car. I’ll be right back, Mommy.”

I’d parked on the street, since our garage might as well be in the next town over. And from the second I set foot on the porch I notice I somehow managed to park with the two right wheels on the sidewalk. My God. Had I been sleep-driving? Then I walk around to the street-side door where Paigey’s car seat is, and of course, it’s open. Not wide open, mind you, but still. And on the front passenger seat? My bag with my wallet, iPhone, yadda yadda yadda. This may be okay in say, Bristol, Rhode Island. But this is Oakland, people. Thankfully–mercifully–it was all still there.

I mean, imagine if I had been drunk how ugly that scene would have been.

Not one to stew silently in my own shame, but to share it (see: this blog) I immediately call my friend Jennifer who lives next door. And she says brightly, “Hey I saw your great parking job!” Oy! Nothing like being beaten to the punch on my own self-flagellation.

But it really was an odd day. Thankfully, no hangover was associated with this not-drunk-but-acting-like it afternoon. I also didn’t don a lampshade, call any old boyfriends, or snarf down a whole sleeve of Chips Ahoy cookies. (Not that I call old boyfriends these days, Mark…) Worst of all, Mary reported late yesterday that the Bad Mood Virus had somehow been passed on to her. I can only hope that its course of destruction ended there.

And thankfully, yesterday when I truly was hungover, my two sisters arrived to valiantly pitch in with the yard sale–merchandising items, setting prices on the fly, convincing people they needed our old crap, and collecting cash with the efficiency and security of a Swiss bank.

At the end of a long and exhausting day I looked at Kate and Paige across the dinner table and smiled thinking that they’ll be there for each other for all the good times, and for all the hung-over yard sales.

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About Me

Posted: September 24th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Cancer, Daddio, Food, Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Mama Posse, Miss Kate, Mom, Other Mothers | 8 Comments »

I realized recently that my blog lacks an About Me section.

The problem is, my personal IT support technician/spouse is away on a business trip, so I’m unable to alter the site’s, uh, complex architecture singlehandedly. (Besides, it makes Mark feel so needed when I let him do these things for me.)

While I await his return, here’s my first take on how I might describe myself:

I’m a mother of two from Oakland, CA who hates mushrooms. My ears aren’t pierced. Well, they were once, but those holes closed up decades ago. My mother died of pancreatic cancer. Women who’ve had natural childbirth are my heroes. I’ve never seen Star Wars. I’ve been a VP, toy reviewer, CNN producer, and state park employee. My favorite holiday is July 4th. I love surprises, resist change, and can’t tolerate wimpyness. I adore old women. I’ve had migraines that have put my right eye out of commission for weeks at a time. I once ate a 24-course meal. I’ve never competed in the Olympics. I went to cooking school to become a pastry chef, then decided against it. I’ve chatted with Mick Jagger. I loved high school and was unimpressed with college. My father’s name is Ferdinand. Altogether I’ve taken 13 years of French. I’ve never had a perm. I’ve lived in Rhode Island, Ohio, Massachusetts, D.C., New York, Georgia, California, France, and England. In a life riddled with happiness, motherhood has brought me supreme contentment. Some people think I have nice hands. I once spent a raucous night out with the White House Secret Service. Sometimes I want to eat my children. I don’t know how to follow a football game. My husband spent the better part of his career at Sports Illustrated. If I were President, liking coconut-flavored rum wouldn’t be uncool. I pronounce ‘aunt’ AHHHnt and ‘apricot’ with a short ‘a.’ Cats scare me. I have a terrible memory. The greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten is that my daughter Kate looks like me. I can dish it out but I can’t take it. Math Game Day in fourth grade always gave me a stomachache. My father is afraid of heights and peach fuzz. A psychic once told me I was a famous ballerina in a past life. I skipped having a first marriage and got a brilliant trophy husband at age 37. I’ve never had braces. For a made-for-TV movie I once played a woman who choked while eating in a restaurant. Parades often make me cry with joy. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning. The love I have for my husband and daughters can best be described as rabid. I’m an obsessive yard saler and recovering packrat. My super powers are the ability to sleep anywhere and parallel parking. I’m the youngest of four girls. I disagree with the way the word ‘segue’ is spelled. I didn’t make a million dollars before turning 30. I look dead in both yellow and light gray. I once stuck a pussy willow up my nose. Seeing a person carrying a box of hot pizza always delights me. I think people who put lines through their sevens are pretentious. If it’s not too much to ask, I’d like a high school marching band to play at my funeral. I know how to say the following things in Polish: ‘underwear,’ ‘Grandma,’ ‘ass,’ and ‘I’m going to throw up.’ I’m a wannabe Jew. If it weren’t for house cleaners, I’d get around to changing my sheets about as often as frat boys do. My best piece of financial advice is to pay for babysitting now instead of marriage counseling later. I’m an avid recycler. My greatest life’s work has been ridding myself of any trace of a Rhode Island accent. It wasn’t until my mother was gone and I had children of my own that I realized I’d inherited her brilliance for tackling tough laundry challenges. I can’t be inside on sunny days. I felt betrayed my senior year of college when the hippies cut their hair short to get jobs at investment banks. I’m not even a little bit country. My last meal would include a Del’s Lemonade.

How much room do they give you in those blog templates for the About Me section anyway?

Well, this will have to do for starters.


And Now for Something I Should’ve Done Ages Ago

Posted: September 21st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Superhero, Misc Neuroses, Sisters | 2 Comments »

My sister Ellen rented a house in San Francisco for about six years before she went downstairs one day to find her house guest cutting into a huge avocado from the tree in her yard. Ellen was about to tell her they weren’t edible, when her friend gushed, “You are so lucky to have these right here for the taking! I’ve been eating them all week. I think they’re the best avocados I’ve ever had!”

Upon learning this Ellen was confused, delighted, and understandably annoyed with herself. Back when she’d first moved in, a neighbor, or the landlord–it was hard to remember exactly who–mentioned something about the avocados not being good. At least she thought they had.

And of course, in all her years living there, she never thought to try one.  

As mean as it is to admit, I’ve always found that story hilarious. Just so funny that she was overlooking something so good that was right there under her nose.

Well, karma’s a bitch. It seems like lately I’ve had my own slew of small missed opportunities. So I guess Ellen can have the last laugh.

The other day in a fit of must-feed-the-family-but-cannot-summon-energy-to-cook, I decided to try out a somewhat dumpy looking Thai restaurant that’s just two blocks away for take-out. Mark picked it up and said the place was packed. And when we started eating we saw why. Great chicken satay. Delicious pad thai. And cheap!

How maddening. The place could not be closer to our house. So we’ve missed out on three years of cheap-easy-yummy Thai food. Argh.

Then when my frienda Brenda arrived dirty and tired from a long road trip on Thursday, I ushered her into the Pink Bathroom, explaining that for our first couple years in the house we disparaged its shower. The stall seemed small. Mark found the shower head low. But then for some reason I used it one day, and realized that the water pressure and even the heat was far better than the shower we exclusively used.

I guess the only other time I’d used the now-favorite shower was when I was in labor with Kate. Probably not the best time to make a judgment call on something. Now, of course, I won’t set foot in the White Bathroom. I guess I’m somewhat of an extremist. For me things are either pink or white.

Back when I first moved to San Francisco I wrote a story for the free weekly paper about dream analysis, and interviewed a bunch of herbal-tea quaffing, poncho-wearing Marin hippie dream experts. One woman asked me about any recurring dreams I’ve had. There was the UFO abduction in the driveway of my childhood home dream. (Hey, don’t laugh.) But I haven’t had that one since I was a kid. The one I was having at the time of the interview was that after a long time living in a particular house I’d realize that there was another room, or a whole wing even, that I’d never been to.

And of course, it was decked out and fabulous or packed with young hot studs and fifty-dollar bills. Well, not really the money and men part so much. But it was distressing nonetheless since these unknown-about parts of my dreamworld houses sent me into repetitive head-thumping V8 moments. Why oh why hadn’t I ever just opened that door?

The hippie dream lady told me it meant that I was looking for new unrealized things in my life; paths not yet explored. And that I was lazy about not opening doors that were right there in front of me.

I’ve got to think that there’s some of that being played out in my world right now. I mean, the shower, the Thai place, and then the other day I go downstairs to dig up some of Kate’s old clothes for Paige and find a trove of forgotten but adorable outfits–many of them Oilily or French designer baby duds that my sister Judy manages to send our way as often as the Sunday paper. Of course, half of them were either already too small for chubby Paige, would fit her for about a week more, or would have been perfect for this past summer. Drat.

Of course I can’t bear to have her not wear them, so the next time we go anywhere I’ll have to do several costume changes for Paige, like she’s a mini Cher in concert. (I’ll likely skip the wigs and make-up.)  It’ll be exhausting, but oh so worth it to get one more wearing out of these crazy cute little numbers.

And frankly, the Paige clothing is one thing. But we’re getting ready for a yard sale. (Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Packrat are actually planning for a public purge. I mean, Bravo should be sending Dr. Phil and a camera crew over here because the pain, anguish, and eventual victory of the whole endeavor will no doubt make for brilliant reality TV.) So, here I am last week spelunking though toys, baby gear, clothing–you name it–and dumping it into the yard sale pile.

Maternity clothes are difficult to let go of only due to my lingering desire to have another baby. I made it doable by thinking I’ll just buy all new stuff if I ever need to. Besides, how sad can you get about letting go of immense mumu-like shirts and elastic waistband pants? Even if you did pay a king’s ransom for them.

And in the midst of digging with both arms like a dog through one of those huge plastic tubs, I unearth a pocket of non-maternity duds. And I see my jeans. My cute pre-preg Lucky jeans, some dark DKNY jeans I think I bought mere moments before the pregnancy pee stick turned positive, and even my faithful faded old Levi’s. In a fit of sentimental fashion fervor I step out of the skirt I’m wearing and right there in the basement start trying on my pre-Paige clothes.

And the heartbreaking mind-blowing thing is, they all fit. No wrenching the zipper up or stretching them over my thighs. No thinking I can wear a long shirt cape-like over my ass to conceal it. These clothes all legitimately fit like, well, like they were mine.


But then I also find some nice linen shorts, a bunch of little skirts, and a navy silk shirt with white polka dots (which sounds horrendous but believe me is darling) that I bought last summer in, of all places, a little boutique in Bristol. Who knows when all these cute clothes started to fit again! For all I know, I could’ve been wearing these things all summer instead of my restricted post-partum wardrobe which included, ashamed as I am to admit it, a couple pairs of Mark’s Patagonia shorts that I’d borrow when I was desperate.

So all these missed opportunities can’t help but make me wonder how I avoid things like these from happening again in the future. Frantically sample the food in each and every local restaurant to ensure we’re not missing out on some easy-to-acquire gastronomic treat? Obsessively taste the fruits in my and my neighbor’s yards? And conduct tests on the efficacy of household appliances–pitting one burner against another–so as to know I’m using the best ones and won’t suffer any future regrets?

Perhaps I should just give into what I’ll call the Parents’ VCR Approach to Life (TM). I mean, back in the day, whose parents ever performed any other function on their VCRs other than Play and Rewind? Sure there was other stuff it could do, and they were even aware of that, but it didn’t ever seem to bother them. They never seemed to lose any sleep over the thought that they were missing out.

Maybe as parents get older so many of these little things they could be doing but are somehow missing out on keep piling up until they get to the point that they just have to throw in the towel and become at ease with it all.

And so, tomorrow perhaps, I shall work on embracing this new philosophy. While strutting around in my brown wedge sandals and my cute little pre-pregnancy jeans.


Garrison and Me

Posted: August 31st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Superhero | 1 Comment »

I’ve marveled with many women over the phenomenon of forgetting the pain of childbirth. But less often we talk about the other part of Selective Memory Survival Syndrome, that once you’re a parent you can’t really remember what it is you did with your time before you had kids.

I mean, there are some broad-stroke things you can conjure from those days. How you mindlessly whiled away weekends at matinees, slept in late–and uninterrupted through the night!–and hoarded immense impractical collections of cocktail shakers, vintage table linens, antique china, and other charming breakable, stainable, space-hogging items.

Oh, and how you sat on airplanes chanting “not near me, not near me, not near me” to yourself as people with babies struggled on board, searching with a desperate look in their eyes for the row where they’d latch in the carseat they’re balancing over their heads, clutching an infant with one arm and directing a toddler in front of them to walk straight down the aisle without wandering into random rows, or to please not for the first time all day just stop. Oh yeah and now that I’m thinking about it there were even times when we dozed off on airplanes between periods of–get this–READING A BOOK.

But, aside from those biggies, it’s harder to remember the smaller more subtle pleasures of kidless-ness.

Last weekend though, when I wasn’t expecting or seeking it, I got a welcomed dose of life before having created new life. Some friends were coming over for dinner which threw Mark and I into our usual food-prep modes. Which is to say he did absolutely everything for the main meal, and I whipped up a little dessert.

I pondered what to make with all the summer’s glorious fruit while standing in front of our cookbook cupboards. And I happened to crouch down and see my cooking school recipe binder; over-stuffed, unwieldy, and sadly long-neglected.

Flipping through it brought back visions of people I hadn’t thought about in years, recipes of old-school foods I’d never make now but love that I know how to (Yule log, anyone? Or perhaps a towering croquembouche?), and the regretful feeling that I should have taken more notes about things like which desserts I’d personally liked at the time. You know, so at a time like this–quite literally wiping dust off the book–I could venture to make something I could be fairly certain I’d be happy with.

Alas, I decided the best approach was to tab things that, despite my wretched memory, looked like they’d be good. And made a longer-term resolve to break away from my small familiar repertoire of crowd-pleasers, and start working my way through this forgotten treasure trove of calories.

Admittedly, the blueberry buttermilk tart I made that day wasn’t a terribly outrageous selection. But I discovered that less than the final product, what this girl had been missing was the process. Alone in the sunny kitchen while Paige napped and Mark and Kate played outside. NPR on our old transistor radio. And me in a long apron working butter into dough, rinsing, stemming, and sorting through blueberries, and moving through the familiar pathways of sink to cookbook to refrigerator to mixer with easy confidence.

Only a few years ago I’d pass many weekend days in this contented cooking flow. I’d go through all of A Prairie Home Companion and much of the BBC news. If I was lucky I’d even catch some of This American Life. Mark might wander in and out of the kitchen, but mostly I was alone, lapping up solitude I didn’t even realize I was storing up for winter, as it were. For a time when a little baby and an busy talkative child would make a long afternoon of baking for visiting friends seem like a sweet sweet vacation.

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