Posted: July 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, Little Rhody, Milestones, Moods, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Summer, Travel | 7 Comments »

Greetings from Nowhere. Well, alright. I guess officially I’m in Oakland. But my psyche feels trapped somewhere between where I just was—my beloved, belittled home state of Rhode Island—and wherever it is l’ll be next.

Or maybe it’s just that where I am now ain’t where I want to be.

My pre-vacation freelance work dried up, at least temporarily. I’m utterly rusty at this stay-at-home mom thing. (But working hard at bringing the passion back into laundry.) And, unsurprisingly, I’m deep into my annual Post-Trip-Home Funk.

The relentlessly dismal, cold weather here is just the icing on the cake.

I always bill myself at being bad with change, but that’s maybe not entirely accurate. If I were to self-diagnose with a bit more precision, I might venture to say it’s not the new things that bother me as much as the down time preceding them.

And right now that seems to be squarely where I am. Nowhere. Swimming in limbo. Stuck between The Then—freelancing, sunny Rhode Island beaches, the world’s best 4th of July parade—and The Soon To Be—our summer pilgrimage to Minnesota, the start of the school year, and, well, hopefully something else. Hopefully some other compelling something-or-other will come into the mix.

But until those things happen, I’m just here. I’m like some Pong-like screen saver, gliding about, bouncing off the edges, then floating off in another unintentional direction.

Rinse. Repeat.

And it’s not only the craptastic weather that’s responsible. For starters, the neighborhood’s been nearly dismantled in the short time we were away. The fam across the street moved deeper into Suburbia. Our friends to the left are on their East Coast summer trip, poorly timed on the heels of ours. And whenever it is they return it’s only to unpack and repack for their Montana house. (Poor dears.) And to complete the circle of abandonment, the cute Ken ‘n Barbie neighbs behind us are in the final stages of job talks that’ll likely take them out of state.

I’m clearly at the vortex of somewhere no one wants to be.

To ground myself, I called my yoga studio last week to get on the list for a popular class. Whatever’s ailing me is certainly nothing that 90 minutes of Oming and Pranayama can’t fix. But it turned out that my favorite instructor is out of town. I can’t even strike a corpse pose right now.

And from what I can tell my whole family’s in limbo. Like a determined sherpa, Paige hauled her diaper-clad ass up onto a twin bed at my dad’s house, planted a flag, and renounced crib-sleeping forever. Well, at least until we got back to California, where we still haven’t managed to buy her a Big Girl Bed. I did get a new rug for her room, and a fluffy pink blanket for the much-anticipated BG Bed. But until we borrow a friend’s truck for an Ikea run, Paige is dejectedly relegated to crib-dom. At naps and night-time she wears me down with dramatic flourishes of dismay, looking over her shoulder with big hurt eyes, like I’m shoving her into a dog cage.

As for Kate, she’s winding down her days in preschool—only 8 to go—and is weeks away from the dazzling new realm of Kindergarten. (If a twin bed makes Paige a big girl, precocious Kate nearly wants to wear make-up to kindergarten.) On a daily basis Kate alternates between practicing her hippie “Rainbow of Friends” graduation song, despairing the loss of her preschool posse, and wondering which of her dresses the kindergarten boys will find the cutest.

Add to all this a veneer of jet lag. As if us McClusky gals aren’t out-of-whack enough, Mark’s fresh back from the Tour de France. Happily reunited with us—in body at least. He still wants to sleep half-way through the work day, and is hungry for breakfast in the middle of the night. All that, plus his body’s in shock from not having fois gras at every meal.

Before I know it, we’ll all push past this nebulous nether realm. I can almost smell the change in the air like the onset of rain. But it’s still just out of reach. And I just hope my patience can endure.

My inner child keeps asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” And my Mama self summons the automatic response, “Not yet, Kristen. But soon.”


You’re On the Air

Posted: March 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Doctors, Extended Family, Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Moods, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting | 1 Comment »

I cried on the radio the other day.

No, I didn’t drape myself over a boom box to weep. I actually called into a radio show and cried. Live on the air.

And to be clear, I’m not someone who calls into radio shows. In my teen years I never once tried to win concert tickets. Like watching American Idol, eating mushrooms, or waking up early to work out, calling into radio shows is something other people do. Not me.

But I’ve recently come to know a talk show host—or should I say hostess? Her radio show, Childhood Matters, is about parenting. Or more precisely, things of interest to people who have an interest in kids.

The topic was milestone delays. And though I started listening with no intention of calling in, I got to thinking about my own dear Paigey. Her learning to walk at 21 months certainly qualified as a milestone delay.

There were folks talking about autism and other kindsa things that trigger most parents to stick their fingers in their ears and say, “LA LA LA LA” really loudly so they can’t hear any more. As if you (or your kid) could catch something just by turning your mind to it.

And frankly as I puttered around listening to the show, I was mentally separating myself from those folks too. Kate and Paige were busying themselves at their toy kitchen, preparing an array of wooden foods to faux-feed their dolls and each other. They were playing so nicely. Such a normal healthy little scene. I got a sudden strong surge to share a milestone-delay success story.

So I called in, and talked to the producer, who said to hold on a minute, and before you know it I was on the air, and next thing after that without having seen it coming, my voice started cracking as I told the story about that one day a year ago when our pediatrician quietly kindly urged me to have Paige “assessed.” I’d told this story dozens of times to friends and family, but it wasn’t until that moment that I somehow felt just how damn scared I’d been back then.

Of course, producers love criers. (I know, I used to be one. A producer, that is. Before I was a crier. I guess I have experience in both realms now.) Anyway, I eventually managed to get my un-sad voice back. And at that point, of course, I felt like I was just getting warmed up. On Paige’s second birthday, I told the listeners, she was zooming around the house squealing and playing alongside all the other two-year-olds. And despite the long haul it’d taken for her to get there, it was clear that she had finally, blessedly caught up. Nothing different between those kids and my girl.

I know I haven’t written about my adventures at the Olympics. Sometimes big, super-fun, once-in-a-lifetime things happen, and instead of writing about those, I find myself focused on the minutiae of every day life.

Besides, that adventure came to a sad end with the unexpected death of Mark’s amazing grandfather. The man was a brilliant businessman in his day, a larger-than-life family man, a reciter of poetry, and apparently a hell of a golfer. Kate’s middle name—Miller—hails from none other than Grandpa John and his wife, Lois. It’s a tribute I’m so very happy we made.

It’s weird how grief works. After my mother died I went to a Day of the Dead parade, expecting a torrent of tears. But nothing. And just a month after her death, I went through Mother’s Day strangely—nearly embarrassingly—devoid of deep sorrow.

But then one day, out to lunch at a cafe, a friend ordered an iced tea, and I excused myself to the bathroom where I sobbed and sobbed. In Target a woman told her child they were going home to meet Grandma, and I sat in the parking lot bawling, unable to drive. When I least expect it the tears still come.

Who knows if it’ll be that way for the people mourning Grandpa John. Surely I’m not the only one to wail in the Target lot. If the folks in Mark’s family are suddenly overcome by the random ordering of a beverage, I hope they feel a bit better on the other side of the tears. I’m no Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, but I do appreciate the cleansing effects of a good cry.

As for my emotional outburst on the radio? Well, when I call in some day to win Jonas Brothers tickets—something I assume I’m bound to do now that I’ve broken the seal on calling radio shows—the next time I’m on the air I’ll strive to exercise a bit more composure.

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From the Hands of Babes

Posted: January 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Food, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Miss Kate, Moods, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop | 2 Comments »

A friend came over for dinner recently and brought a bottle of wine and a copy of The Girlfriends’ Guide to Getting Your Groove Back: Loving Your Family Without Losing Your Mind. It was written by that chick Vicki Iovine—the skinny-ass former Playboy centerfold turned domestic advice-giver who’s married to a gazillionaire music exec. Or maybe they’re divorced at this point.

Whatever the case, it’s crazy how much she and I have in common.

Anyway, I haven’t cracked the book, nor do I intend to. I’m a firm believer that reading about how overwhelmed you are is neither entertaining nor productive. Whereas reading about absolutely anything else—say, hot teen vampire sex—has a much better chance at alleviating standard-grade housewife malaise. (Note: I have not yet succumbed to the smut-lit allure of those books. But I do have the first one in a pile by my nightstand.)

And I wasn’t offended by my friend’s offering. I didn’t think it was some sort of hand-patting, “Honey, really, read the book” kinda intervention. Especially since it wasn’t even intended for me. (Or so she said.) Her daughter had allegedly been rooting around in their house, and dragged it into the living room. And seeing as my friend’s groove is apparently intact, she dropped the book in her bag in case I, or the other friend we were seeing that night, were in need of some groove restoration.

But the truth is, I had been lamenting that ever since the calendar flipped to 2010 I’ve been in a bad mood. My groove in this new decade–or lack thereof—has been informed by my wretchedly out-of-whack back, my agita over getting Kate into a good school next year, and the dreary fact that my book proposal has gotten nowhere closer to being completed than it was in, say, early November. Add to that the extra pounds I packed on over the holidays, for a nice veneer of flagging self-esteem.

Even though it’s just been sitting here, my friend’s kid having unearthed the groove-regetting manual maybe did have some impact on my psyche. Perhaps by its mere presence in my house, the tides of ill-humor have started to change.

First-off, we’ve made progress on Kate’s school applications. Two of them are already handed in (despite an 11th-hour explosion of loose powder blush that came close to rendering the hand-written one, well, “Warmth” pink.) All the nail-chewing over writing the damn things has suddenly changed into an optimistic excitement about how amazing it’ll be for Kate (and us) to be part of one of these cool schools. I’m already planning to volunteer in the classroom constantly. (They’ll have a maternal restraining order out for me by late fall…)

My back still sucks. As in, hurts nearly constantly. But Paigey got into a fabulous preschool for next year. And my book proposal’s still dead in the water, but I’m resolved to get childcare in the coming weeks to make some headway on it.

And I’ve got two great trips to look forward to. A hopefully snow-covered jaunt to Rhode Island and a most-certainly white-capped visit to Vancouver. Thanks in no part to my athletic prowess, I am going to the Olympics!

Also, in a totally not-me move, I decided to Just Say No to my book group book. Just not read it! How liberating is that? Usually I stressfully speed-read in the final days before we meet, as if I’m prepping for the LSATs or something. But after reading the first five of the book’s 400-plus pages, I simply decided I just wasn’t 400-plus-pages-worth of interested. To some this may seem a minor act of rebellion, but for a rule-follower and perfect-attendance gal like myself, this felt as bad-girl liberating as the Queen must feel peeing in the shower.

I also recently picked up a wee freelance gig at My first piece, a recap of the show Brothers & Sisters, wasn’t half-bad. (At least according to my father.) Mark’s also got a 14-pound brisket slooooow-cookin’ in the smoker I got him for Christmas. And really who can feel gloomy at the prospect of the lifetime of smoked meats that now extends before me? (His enthusiasm for this new toy is such that we may also be eating smoked breakfast cereal Chez McClusky soon.)

Even my dream life is showing signs that I’m relaxing a bit. Like last night, I had a kinda sex dream about one of the schools Kate’s applying to. And I call it a sex dream, but when I described it to Mark he pointed out that there really was no sex in it whatsoever. But you don’t always need sex for sex, right? I mean, didn’t we learn that lesson years ago from Bill Clinton?

So in the dream I’m at this school (our top pick for Kate, in fact) and I’m taking a tour. And on the tour all the perspective parents get shunted into the school’s wood shop, where there’s this strapping, black hottie of a wood shop teacher. (This, by the way, is nothing like their real wood shop teacher. It’s a dream, people.) And then in that weird dream-way that you just skip over some of the boring how-things-unfolded parts, next thing you know he and I are in my car! But no no no, not groping each other or anything, just driving around. You know, with our thighs all close together and almost touching in the way they are when you are in a close-quartered dream-car next to the hot wood shop teacher. Like you do.

So he tells me he’s been working at the school for 30 years, but he says, “thirty years of radiation” which in that weird dream-way I don’t find to be an odd turn of a phrase and simply take to mean he’s been getting cancer treatments all that time. But it’s not like that’s a sad thing. In fact, this virile wood shop teacher who for some reason I’ve kidnapped mid-school-tour looks altogether healthy. And I just say to him, “Yeah I don’t want to go there.” And, dreamily, he’s not offended at all, and we just keep driving and I think, “I really should get back to the school tour.”

And then I woke up.

Chaste. And still even Dreamland-loyal to my husband.

Several weeks ago we were at a birthday party. We were at the friend’s house who brought me the Groove book. Paige was still somewhat new to walking. One of her favorite places to toddle off to and explore is bed-side tables. They have fun little drawers it’s easy for little hands to open.

So as we’re in the kitchen chatting with some other parents, Paige staggers from the back of their house out into their living room and heads towards me with a violet-colored tube in her hand. Turns out it was our hosts’ Astroglide. Ahem.

Of course, those of us in the kitchen who saw what Paigey had poached found it uproarious. Funny enough to not sweep it under the so-called carpet, but to send Paige back across the guest-filled living room with instructions to hand the item over to its rightful owners.

Paige obliged. Much giggling and blushing and good-natured heckling ensued. Good times.

Thinking about that now, I can’t help but wonder if Paige was on to something. Was it really a random offering? Or was she trying to communicate in some childlike intuitive way, “This is what you people need. This is the answer!”

Now I’m not implying that Paige thinks I should have a romp with the dream-based wood shop teacher. There’s a time and place for people from The Land of Make Believe. I think she was maybe just making her own down-home suggestion about how us Mommies and Daddies could get our groove back.