Everything Old is New Again

Posted: October 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Babies, City Livin', College, Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse, Milestones, My Body, My Temple, Other Mothers | 3 Comments »

When I first moved to Oakland I still went to my dry cleaner in San Francisco. It was a 30-minute drive, if traffic was with me. And it wasn’t that my dry cleaner was even that good. It was more about my denial. Denial that I’d left the romantic, world-famous City by the Bay. Denial that we were moving to the ‘burbs. Denial about change in general.

We moved because we were having a baby. And our landlords broke up and were selling the condo we rented. It seemed like the universe was giving us a kick in the real estate keister. A nudge to move to a more family-friendly area where we could have a house and a yard, and not drive around looking for parking for 45 minutes every night—despite how much fun that could be.

Other things were changing in my world too. Two months after we moved I had a baby. Then I quit my big fancy job.

It was like I was systematically removing everything that was familiar and normal in my life. I walked around like a person who didn’t know herself. When people met me I wished I was wearing a sandwich board that said, “This isn’t really where I live. Sorry about that screaming baby—I don’t know it very well, but it turns out it’s mine. This is NOT my real ass, by the way—or gut. And don’t even ASK me what I do for work. Unless you want me weeping on your shoulder.”

Thankfully I joined a mother’s group and discovered a gaggle of other women who were as perplexed and outside their comfort zones as I was. Eventually I stopped saying, “I just left a job as the VP of yadda yadda…” and ‘fessed up to being a stay at home mom. Over time I also changed dry cleaners. But when I’m out of state I still tell people I live in San Francisco. So sue me.

Fast forward seven years. [Picture pages being torn off of a wall calendar. Lots and lots of pages.] Speaking of pages, we had another baby, named Paige. And at some point before her arrival and after a nice long stretch at home with Kate I did go back to work. I managed to fall into another great job, hired a nanny, and alligator-wrestled with that age-old work-life balance I’d heard people talk about.

Slowly all these changes settle in and become the new normal. Eventually friendships formed and I stopped lamenting the miseries of Oakland. And when the toddler called out “Mama!” most of the time I realized it was me she was talking to.

But amidst all this acceptance there was still one hold-out. One pre-parenting part of me that I wasn’t returning to. Something I wasn’t willing to accept as the new me. And it was kind of a big one.

It was my body.

Not that I’ve ever been terribly overweight, but four years after Paigey’s departure from my womb, I still wasn’t the slim-legged gal I used to be.

Until now. Because, thanks to a hand-me-down elliptical machine in our garage, and a juicer, and let’s not forget my step-counting FitBit, this little Mama’s got her groove back. I’m hardly wearing the jeans I had in college mind you, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

Or, as Kate puts it, “Mama is strong and healthy.” Fearful of passing bad body-image baggage on to her, as she watched me slog through routines on the elliptical and blenderize metric tons of kale, I avoided saying I was “trying to lose weight.”

After three children—two of whom came at once—my friend Meggie has been kicking her own ass at the gym, and swimming, and doing yoga. And she recently dipped her toes back into the work world. A pants-pissing email she sent out after dusting off her resume reported it was so long since she’d worked that under “Skills” she had a line about “using the internet as a research tool.” Hilarious.

When I got back from the East Coast this summer she’d just done a Master Cleanse and had lost even more weight. I think we spent the first few minutes in her doorway circling and looking each other up and down clucking “Looking good, girl!”

After seven years of friendship it was kinda like, “Kristen’s ‘real’ body, meet Megan’s ‘real’ body.” Like, this is what I’m supposed to look like! Even though you’ve never seen me look this way, this is actually me!

And NO, perverts, a topless pillow fight did NOT ensue.

Anyway, Efficiency Diva that she is, Meg made lightening-fast work of revising her resume and getting it out on the scene. And in record time she landed the perfect part-time entrepreneurial flexible gig. Plus: free beer. (No joke!)

I am crazy, silly-pants happy for her. I can’t wait to hear about the “I still got it!” surges of job satisfaction that’ll hit her once she starts. When I first went back to work I was thrilled to just pee without anyone knocking on the door begging me to read to them. Then someone asked me if I wanted to go out to lunch and my head exploded with the fancy-free, Big Girl in the City wonder of it all.

I’m so lucky to have an honest, authentic, hilarious group of mama friends with whom I’ve hit my stride, and a few the skids along the way. (OAK-land in the house!!) And now we’re kinda reaching some cool plateau where we’re less kid-focused and can squeeze a little time into our days doing things for ourselves. Even my friend with a nine-month-old is impressively back on her game. It’s like everything old is new again.

Is this what they call getting your groove back? Except without the affair with a younger hot Caribbean man, I mean.

Yesterday I got on the scale. It’s one of those digital ones where the numbers go to zero, then you step on and it calculates your weight. The first number that came up was one that I hadn’t seen on my scale for YEARS. And oddly was the exact weight I always used to be. But then—like some cruel joke—it blipped off, and changed to my real weight. Which I’m actually still quite happy with.

But it was so weird to see that old familiar number I couldn’t help but step off, let the numbers go to zero, and step back on again. And weirdness of weirdnesses, it happened again! That old weight—just for a second or two—flashed up then changed to my real weight.

It was like some message from the Intergalactic Scale Fairies. Sort of like “that was then, honey, but this is the new reality.”

So how’m I feelin’ about that? You know, I don’t need to get to that old weight again. I almost can’t imagine being that skinny any more. Just like I can’t imagine not having my daughters, or moving back to San Francisco. But if my dry cleaner makes one wrong move, I am dropping them like a hot potato.


Guest Post: Photographer Mary McHenry

Posted: June 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Little Rhody, Mama Posse, Summer, Travel | 8 Comments »

I’ve been thinking a lot about my upcoming trip to Rhode Island. Every summer I seem to tack another week onto our visit there. It’s so heavenly with the beaches and the old friends and the small town vibe. Not to mention the love-fest between my dad and stepmother and my kids.

This year since Mark will be in London covering the Olympics and I’m not working, I decided the girls and I should just stay ’til I go to BlogHer. So we’ll be there for about five weeks, with some jaunts to Cape Cod, New Yawk, and a wedding in Virginia.

Yippee! We leave Saturday. I can already taste the Del’s lemonade.

As it turns out, some of my best friends in Oakland venture back East for a chunk of summer too. My crazy-talented photographer friend, Mary McHenry, is one of them.

Mary has a fabulous photo blog that’ll keep you up all night scrolling through to the next post. Mine, as you know, is all about words. It struck me that a guest post from Mary about her summers in Maine would be a real treat for you all.

Lucky for you, she agreed to do it.


*   *   *   *   *

Do you have one of those places that you keep traveling back to, year after year? You know, like your personal Wailing Wall? Maine is my spot.

I was born in a little coastal town in Maine and lived there until I was 12, when we moved to… Miami!  I know, strange.  My mom learned to salsa dance and order Cuban food. I learned there are such things as “brand names” and “different religions.”  This strange world was surprising and fun and we made wonderful new friends.

But as soon as school ended in June, we would pack up our cats and go back to Maine.

An old summer house had been passed onto to us, which we share with a bunch of cousins. Imagine faded shingles, fine chipped china, no TV, and the same Newsweek in the bathroom since 1986.

Many years later, I still return every summer. I go through all sorts of life changes but the house and land I visit there doesn’t. There is something so deeply comforting about this.

These days I make this pilgrimage from Oakland, California with my own family. We grumble over the expensive tickets and the ten-plus hour flying days, and we arrive at the house bedraggled at around 1AM. But it doesn’t matter. It all falls away—in fact, the world falls away—and I am back.

My bones just feel right there. I see my children, now four and six, starting to form the same connection to the place. I want the smells and feelings of Maine to imprint in their little psyches so they too will have this strange calling to come back.











Mary McHenry is a documentary wedding and portrait photographer based in the Bay Area. To see more of her work visit www.marymchenry.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


50 Shades of Gray

Posted: May 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Babies, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Mama Posse, Moods, Other Mothers, Parenting | 3 Comments »

My mama friends are all hot and bothered these days. There’s a stirring, a yearning in our loins that we haven’t felt for—well, for some of us—years.

And it’s all because of a gorgeous guy named Gray.

Well, his full name is actually Graham. Gray is his nickname. And when I say guy, I mean a little guy. As in, just 13 weeks old.

Yes, after all the women in our “Housewives of Alameda County” klatch had finished their baby makin’, my friend Alexa decided to go one further. She’d been feeling like two kiddos didn’t make her family complete, so this February she popped out another adorable bundle of joy.

Now the rest of us have long ago said farewell to our Diaper Genies. We’ve disassembled our changing tables and cribs, and haven’t pureed anything other than margaritas in our blenders for years. And naps are something the adults in our houses take now, not the kids.

But whether we thought our friend’s pregnancy announcement last summer was madness or genius, it’s clear where we all stand now. We are desperately over-the-top in love with that baby.

Mary, the photographer, has her iPhone camera in his grill 24×7. (And her big girl camera some of the time too.)

Megan seems ready to take on wet nurse duties if necessary. And she’s totally tuned into all Gray’s little signals, patterns, and preferences.

“Thump his butt,” she schooled me as I bouncy-walked him around the pool the other day. “He likes that—it helps him settle down.”

“Oh the football hold,” she’ll purr gazing down on him. “That’s your favorite, right Gray?”

Of course, our husbands find our baby lust entertaining. “Enjoy him all you want, ladies,” one of the guys said recently while chuckling. “But our factories have been closed for business. Ain’t no more babies being born ’round here.”

Which is actually totally true. [Sniff!]

I mean, you know you’re middle-aged when the guys at a barbeque stand around the grill talking about who did their vasectomies, and what sporting events they planned their recoveries around. As hands-on dads, there’s no better excuse for tuning into a long day of the Masters Golf Tournament or March Madness than having to ice your gonads with a sack of frozen peas.

Ah, good times.

But do we love Gray so much because our own baby eras are over? (At least until we pester our kids for grandchildren.) Well, that makes our front-row access to him all the more delicious, for sure. But he’s also just such a little sweetie. Those newborn-blue eyes! And that one silly Smurfy hat he wears! Oh my God and when he smiles at you. And now? He’s babbling. I’d somehow forgotten all about the babbling. It’s ADORABLE.

Hell, I could go on like this all day.

At Target yesterday I found myself marveling at these wee little surfer-boy shirts. And then—oh look!—tiny board shorts with skulls on them you can fit a diaper under. They say that girls get all the cute clothes but there are some darling boy duds too I think as I wander deeper into the baby department.

I wonder if Alexa needs anything for Gray this summer…

A screaming toddler pierces my reverie. I come to, take a sip of chai, and redirect my shopping cart to the dish soap aisle.

I clearly need to get back to that smutty S&M novel I’m reading, and get my mind off of sweet, beautiful little babies.


Love You Long Time, Ladies

Posted: May 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Holidays, Mama Posse, Mom, Other Mothers, Parenting, Preschool | 14 Comments »

Last week my kid’s hippie preschool had a “Mothers and Others” breakfast. Because if they didn’t include “others” some crazed PC parent would be enraged and offended and break all the windows and set the garbage cans on fire. Then go live a tree for ten months to protest.

Yawn. Just another day in Berkeley.

The breakfast was lovely actually, and one of the mothers—or maybe she was one of the others—was telling me her four-year-old has been asking a lot of heavy questions lately.

“So the other day she says, ‘What happens to you after you die?’”

“And I tell her, ‘You know, that’s a very good question, Lindsey, but I don’t know really know the answer.”

The mom looks up, “So she says, ‘Well why don’t you just Google it, Mom?’”

Honestly, I was about to give the woman the very same advice. (I always thought that Lindsey seemed like a smart kid.)

Instead I recommended the mom get a tattoo of the exchange. I was willing to get a matching one. I mean, some of these gems you’ve got to write down to remember. Others need commemorating in a more lasting manner.

As mamas I love that we have a front-row seat to all this crap. We work damn hard for the access, but times like those help get you through the day.

Ever since getting my very own C-section scar, I’ve been goony with adoration for mothers. I realize it’s narcissistic that it took me having to become a mom to appreciate all my mother did, but I’d guess I’m not alone.

I’ve learned a shit ton from my friends over the years, but I’ve found the mom-friend provides a unique level of intimacy. Hell, I’ve shared tips for unplugging breast ducts with total strangers in the produce aisle at Safeway. Imagine how I am with mamas I know—and love.

Today I want to honor the moms whose wisdom, talent, humor, and guilt-free ability to drink during playdates has dramatically improved my adventure in motherhood.

Like my friend Mary. Why spend the money on an overpriced plastic Barbie Dream House, when you can make one from a shoe box? It’s brilliant. She’s also happened to take every beautiful photo of my family that I could never take myself. When I’m sitting in a nursing home in my own diaper some day, I’ll be fondly looking at photos Mary took of my family, and blasting Glory Days REALLY LOUD from my clock radio.

And Megan? She taught me about the transformative powers of drinking a cold beer in a hot shower at the end of the day. It’s the modern mother’s Calgon bath. If you’ve never done this, I beg you to try it right now.

My friend Sacha took her kids to museums when they still had their umbilical stumps intact. And I’m not talking about kiddie museums, though she does those too. Those kids know their way around The Asian Art Museum and The De Young like most kids know the playspace at Chuck E Cheese.

I have another friend named Megan, and it’s the weirdest most impressive thing. Every time I’ve seen her daughters outdoors—in photos or in the flesh—they are, get this, wearing HATS. Like, they keep them on their heads. I don’t know what more I can say about that other than, wow. I think Kate wore a hat for 20 seconds once. It was one of those pink and blue striped caps they stick on newborns in the hospital. Even though she couldn’t focus her eyes she clawed that thing off her head nearly instantly. And hasn’t worn a hat since.

My neighbor/friend/walking partner Jen is the cleverist, most creative, all-natural homemade kinda mama I know. Luckily she lives next door and my kids often glom onto her fabulous sewing, rubber stamping, or gardening projects. Her kids come to our house to watch TV.

And Becca—wait, is this starting to sound like that B-52s song 52 Girls? (Don’t worry, it’s not the extended dance mix—it’ll be over soon.) So Becca is a triathlete, ER doc, the first lady of Surly beer, and… I swear there was something else. Oh, right! She has FOUR YOUNG BOYS. Quattro. And a puppy. Becca is my in-the-moment mama role model. Her boys ask her to read Harry Potter, play Candy Land, or build forts ALL DAY LONG—when she’s not at work pulling forks out of people’s eyeballs, that is. Becca always says yes.

If everything goes according to my plans Becca and I will plan a wedding together some day. For our kids, I mean. I’m not professing my love for her here. At least not that kinda love.

My sis-in-law Lori is a military mother o’ two. Her husband’s gone tons, so she cares for their kiddos and cooks like Betty Crocker like it’s no big thing. She’s the master of the early bedtime, which is a brilliant alternative to strangling your children when it’s been a long day.

Lori’s family moves a lot, on accounta the way the military does that to you. That gal can unpack a house and have her kids enrolled in the local school in, like, 20 minutes. It’s really quite impressive.

While we’re at it my neighbor Brooke is a military mama with a deployed son. There are yellow ribbons round her old oak trees, for realz.

My hat goes off to both you mamas.

And here’s to all the moms who I’ve openly—or in a more closeted fashion—adopted since my own mom left the planet. (To be clear, she died. She’s not an astronaut.)

France Demopolus’ kitchen table is where I’ve felt unconditional love since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. If I could make my home this way for even one of my kids’ friends, it’d make up for other things in my life, like not competing in the Olympics or never having gone to summer camp.

And my mother-in-law Peggy has wiped my children’s butts, folded my family’s laundry, and drank white wine with me at the end more days than I can count. She’s also told me more than once, “You’re doing a great job with those girls.” And whether or not she’s been paid to say that, it’s amazingly good to hear.

I’m totally out about my adoration for my friend’s mom Claudia. She’s an elementary school teacher, a reading expert [swoon], and a world-class grandma. And if you ask her how an 8-hour drive was, she lights up like you’re asking about her wedding day and says, “So. Much. Fun.” The woman has a good time getting her teeth cleaned, I swear. I wanna live like her.

Enough of my ramblings. It’s probably time for you to ring the bell for another mimosa or foot rub. Or if you’re a dad, to peel more grapes for your wife. Or pull that B-mer with the big red novelty bow around to the front of the house.

The way I see it, being a mom on Mother’s Day is like getting an Oscar nomination. It makes me want to say what an honor it is to even be in the company of these talented, amazing women. And I’d also like to thank Harvey Weinstein.

Don’t forget your sunscreen today, and grab a light sweater, honey, and I’ll see you back here in a couple days. xoxoxo


Opening Windows

Posted: August 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Doctors, Little Rhody, Mama Posse, Misc Neuroses, Mom | 2 Comments »

Was it just me, or did everyone adore their pediatrician when they were little?

I mean, not love love. Not like in any Electra Complex sorta way. It’s just that for me going to the doctor was always a super happy event. Even when I had to get shots.

I’ll call him Dr. Unger. And what I remember about the guy was this: He had pictures of his patients covering one wall of his office. Even though I wasn’t in any of them (something I never dreamed of—as a fourth child, photos of me were rare), there was something so free-spirited and fabulous about the collage. To my kid brain, at least. No adult I knew dared to decorate this way.

Of course, as a mother now myself I now know nearly every pediatrician does this, at least at the holidays with photo cards. But at the time it was one more thing that made Dr. Unger so dazzling.

For some reason I always thought he looked like a handsome version of—get this—Jerry Lewis. Ha! Absurd, right? I’m not sure where I got that idea, but I remember thinking I was pretty cool for coming up with it. I mean, this was the age of Tab and Fresca people. I’m no spring chicken. So, along with thinking that shag carpets were an acceptable floor covering and Pacers were cool-looking cars, we we clearly devoid of handsome celebs—leaving me to have to summon in my youthful imagination what Jerry Lewis mighta looked like if he didn’t look the way he did.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m an over-achiever. And you’re absolutely right.

Anyway, Dr. Unger had this nurse (or was she a secretary?) who was ancient, and crisp white uniformed, and super old school. She ran that office like a Swiss train. Or a Swiss clock. Something Swiss. (But not cheese.)

She was a mighty force, but her air of authority was never off-putting. She made it clear the place would fall to ruins without her, yet managed to be all smiles and winks. And she had a very chummy, insider-ish way of talking to my mom. As if we were a special family she was truly happy to see.

She probably made everyone feel that way. And good for her, if she did.

“Oh that Dr. Unger,” my mother would say admiringly, as we walked down the floating staircase (very mod at the time) to the parking lot, and she lit up a brown More cigarette. Mom adored Dr. Unger as much as I did. In that “he’s SO good at his job” kinda way. Though, who knows? Maybe she had a thing for Jerry Lewis too.

Whatever the case, there was a real sense of us feeling lucky that he was our doctor. I mean, we’d drive a half-hour to get to his office. This is halfway ‘cross the state when you consider we were in Rhode Island. But mom was resolute that he was “the best” so she’d dress us up for an outing to “the city” for every little check-up and sniffle. (Shorts, for your information, were an unacceptable clothing option for the city according to Mom. She stopped just short of making us wear gloves and bonnets.)

Aside from an allergy test where he pricked different parts of my arm with a short four-pronged needle, and aside from getting to pick out a lollipop after getting a shot, for all my admiration for Dr. Unger, I don’t remember any specific interactions I had with the guy. But I do remember one thing he told my mother once. He said, “The best thing you can do for a child is to keep their window open when they sleep.”

And so, all these years later I can’t help but think of Dr. Unger when I tuck my girls in at night. Unless it’s super cold out, I try to at least keep one window in their rooms cracked.

It’s such a little thing, but when I do it I feel like I’m tapping into some old world wisdom. Like I’m channeling some simple maternal legacy, since it was something my mother did with us. Because, of course, Dr. Unger’s word was gospel. Mom wouldn’t dare go up against doctor’s orders. And she always prided herself on the fact that my sisters and I never got sick. Something I’ve gotta admit, I love about my kids too. (Though now that I’ve said that I’m sure they’ll be plagued with an endless stream of sniffles, sore throats, and all-night puking sessions.)

Anyway, more often than not old clashes with new. And this small window thing is no exception.

Because one day, in a stream of chatter about everything and nothing at all (my favorite kind of conversation), my Mama Posse friend Maggie mentioned that she always closes her kids’ bedroom windows at night. And locks them. “Even,” she added, “if it’s, like, 100 degrees out.” (Though, blessedly, the Bar Area never gets near that hot.) Ever since the Polly Klaas thing, she said she’s not taking any chances.

Several weeks later, another member of the Mama Posse (we don’t have matching tattoos or embroidered satin jackets, I swear) was showing us the new extension they’d put on her house. Their fab-u-luss new master suite is pretty removed from their kids’ rooms. And so then she mentioned something about locking the kids’ bedroom windows at night.

And so, I took pause. (It’s such an odd expression, “took pause,” but I’d like to use it here, if y’all don’t mind.)

Because my Mama Posse mamas are women I’ve known since I used the word “latching” several times a day, and my C-section scar was still an incision. Back when a wrap-around nursing pillow was a regular accessory on my couch, and I hadn’t yet mastered breastfeeding while waiting in line at Trader Joe’s. In other words, I’ve know them since the infancy of my motherhood.

And we have talked about it ALL, these women and I. If my mama friends had told me that slathering my baby in mayo was an effective cure for colic, or way get her to sleep, or to take a bottle,  I’d be scooping the stuff out of a jar with my bare hands and lubing that baby right up—no questions asked—even though I’m pretty much phobic about the stuff.

I seek and trust and respect their opinions on all things motherly above and beyond Dr. Spock even. But above Dr. Unger? And my own Mama?

I was perplexed.

So hearing their stance on window openage got me thinking. Am I acting irresponsibly? Am I playing with fire, all for the sake of some fresh air? Does old school wisdom not translate so well into the modern day?

Our nice neighborhoods aside, the fact is, we live in the fourth most dangerous city in the U.S. At least, that’s what my sister told me she read on AOL once. It’s not like we’re in the little Mayberry-like town that I grew up in.

But somehow, somewhere along the line, the fearful “someone’s going to break in and take her” feeling I had about both my girls when they moved out of our bed-side bassinet and into their own rooms seems to have dissipated. Not that I’m concerned about their safety any less. But now that they walk and talk and wear friendship bracelets and request “alone time” and know the lyrics to Justin Beiber songs, I have a whole new host of concerns that have apparently put kidnapping low on the list.

Or maybe it’s that I could imagine someone wanting to steal an angelic sleeping baby, but can’t fathom the desire to make off with a child who has a 20-minute screaming tantrum because I won’t give her a cookie three minutes after she’s had an ice cream cone.

Besides, the way our house is set up, our first floor windows are super high up. Definitely un-attainable by even the tallest thief or kidnapper.

And the place is hardly vast. If either girl sneezes in their room, we can pretty much hear it from ours. I always said the baby monitors we used were vanity items.

Last summer my neighbor started letting her third-grader walk the couple blocks to our local library. This seemed kind of wild to me at the time—who knows what could happen in that short distance, even with the most careful and responsible child? But I’m coming around to understanding what she allowed it. It’s no Mayberry here, but it IS a sweet little neighborhood we’re in. And if we can’t relax and enjoy it—if we can’t give our kids small tastes of independence, bite by bite—then we’re just letting the terrorist win. Or someone who we don’t want to win.

Who knows what I’ll be allowing my girls to do a few years from now. I hope I have some of that “let them out of the nest” courage my friend next door has with her kids. More likely I’ll be jumping out of the bushes when they’re in college to walk them across the quad at night.

In the meantime, I’m taking what feels like a small but valiant stance on the windows. Barring any large-ladder wielding weirdos, I think we’re safe having them open.

After dredging up all these memories of Dr. Unger, I just Googled the guy. I was half-scared I’d get an obit. In that clueless kid-like way, I have no idea how old he was when I was his patient. (Though I know I was wedging my college-aged ass into a kiddie chair in his waiting room when I last saw him, and he gently referred me to a grown-up doctor.) Thrillingly, I found a listing for him. He is alive and well—and still even in practice! Those kids who’s pics are in the collage on the wall of his office today are lucky little patients.

After more prowling around The Internets I found one of those doctor directory websites, which had this line on him: “Years since graduating from medical school: 57.” My math’s not good, but I think that takes him to a ripe old age.

Good for him. Must be all those nights sleeping with his window open that’ve kept him going.


The Story about the Book

Posted: October 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Mama Posse | 1 Comment »

Don’t ever lend me a book.

My friend Mary did. And she doesn’t know it yet, but she shouldn’t have.

First off, I’ve had the thing for a while now. Held onto it for two, maybe even three months. Far longer than the inter-friendship lending library loan period should allow. Even with a few renewals.

And I tend to zip through books pretty quickly, once I start them. But this one—that super-popular dragon tattoo book everyone’s all hopped up about—didn’t draw me in at first. And with my tower of bedside books beseeching me to read them, I did something unusual. I set it down one night and dug into something else.

But then, when I was just in New York recently, I realized in somewhat of a panic that I was nearing the end of another book. I found myself suddenly dangerously close to being without a new one.

So along with my paisley pashmina and my witchy super-pointy-toed black high heels, I had Mark toss Mary’s ‘tattoo girl’ book in his bag for me. He was still at home, heading to the East Coast a few days after me.

So you know, the book suffered the usual reasonable wear and tear on the dust jacket. Shoved in Mark’s bag, then crammed into mine. Taken in and out of my purse along with diapers, lipsticks, and the girls’ discarded apple cores. Typical stuff.

I mean, I do respect books, just for the record. I NEVER dog-ear pages. (And I disdain those who do when I read a book after them.) I don’t write in margins, though I do stick Post-Its in cook books. And if one of the girls walks over a book or bends the spine all backwards you can betcha I roll out Lecture #372 on Respectin’ Books.

But with this one book, it all went so wrong.

Because for our flight home I tossed it in a newsstand plastic bag, along with my requisite airplane-reading celeb mag, Mentos, and a bottle of water. And when we finally staggered home from our cross-country day of travel, it appeared that my water bottle’s sport top had opened.

And water makes a book wet.

But it’s WATER. I am a mother and of all the things that I know cause problems, water is almost never one of them. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to the kids, “Don’t worry about it! It’s just water!”

Water dries. Water doesn’t stain. Water won’t smell bad when it’s lodged in a sippy cup under the seat of your car for three weeks.

Water is my friend.

So I did what you do when you want something wet to dry. I stuck the book in the dish rack alongside the kitchen sink.

But eventually, the next day I think, I gave up the book’s dish rack space for wet dishes. It seemed only fair that they have priority placement. Because if I were to keep the book on the dish drain, and start to pile the wet dishes elsewhere to dry, I’d start to set a domino effect into motion that could result in my becoming a crazy shut-in who is tracked down by the producers of Oprah because I have laundry drying in the trees outside my house and I bathe in a kiddie pool because my bath tub is full to the brim with head-less dolls, summer shoes, and dessicated cans of Play-Doh.

And I didn’t want that to happen.

But the book was still not dry. How was it that the wetness could be so persistent?

I moved the book to my bedside floor (on a magazine, so as not to stain the hardwood). I gingerly turned the sodden pages to read it at night. None of the ink ran as a result of The Water Bottle Incident, so everything was perfectly legible.

And the book is compelling, just like everyone says. So the dampness didn’t deter me.

A couple times during the day I’d remember to put it on the kitchen counter on a wire baking rack. I figured it’d allow air to circulate around it. I’d open it to random especially-saturated sections, in hopes that over time I could systematically dry the whole thing out.

Then at night I’d take the book back into bed, and suffer the disapproval of my beloved spouse who’d tenderly say things like, “Oh for the love of God, honey. Throw that thing out! I have that book on my Kindle you know.”

But say what you will. I’m an optimist.

And I felt certain that, given time, the book would dry on up. I mean, some—okay ALL—of the pages would be a bit puckered perhaps. But, as I said, the words were totally intact. I mean, sure, I started with a hardcover and I’d transformed it to a pliable soft paperback. But the book was still managing to function in the capacity that a book does.

Besides, the book was not mine. Not mine to just throw away.

But then one day, flipping to a section I was planning to aerate, I noticed a slate blue streak. Mold. And I knew, like you know when your old Labrador’s hip dysplasia becomes untenable, that it was time.

Of course, I couldn’t do it myself. I asked Mark to. And despite the fact that he held the thing at arm’s length like some diarrhea-drenched diaper, it was clear that he was pleased to do the honors.

It’s been some days now—nearly a week, in fact—and despite a multitude of phone-call attempts and voicemail exchanges, I’ve been unable to reach Mary to tell her about her book. Of course, I’m happy to replace it, no question about that. But to go ahead and do that before letting her know how far I’d come, and all I went through with that book, just seems wrong. I mean, you can’t just kill your friend’s goldfish then drop another orange one in the bowl like it’s no big thing.

Alas, it’s late. So I’ll crawl into bed and curl up with Mark’s Kindle. Though, of course, it won’t be the same.

I imagine that Mary won’t be asking me to dog sit any more.

1 Comment »


Posted: August 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, Friends and Strangers, Little Rhody, Mama Posse, Movies | 1 Comment »

Years ago, driving across the Bay Bridge, I saw a car with the license plate WMNRSMTR.

As you may know (from my excessive blathering about it), I’m from Rhode Island. A place where vanity license plates—and those with low numbers—are regarded as the pinnacle of social worth.

Not to show off or anything, but my first car, a major jalopy, had the most-excellent plate, KB 2. It was because I was dating the son of a Department of Transportation employee. That car’s been off the road for twenty years now, but my Dad (FB 14) is still proud of that license plate.

Aaaanyway, I was driving behind WMNRSMTR. It was clear that there was a message in there, but not so clear what it was. And I’m usually great with word things. It’s those pastel dotty posters you’re supposed to stare at until you see the wolf baying at the moon that I have trouble with. I almost never succeed at having the image emerge, and end up just lying to whomever I’m shopping with at Spencer’s that I saw it.

But I digress.

So here’s me, alone in my car, trying to crack the code:

“Wim… Nurse.. Mutter…”

“Wih Minners Matter?”

Then more determined:

“Wim NERsum Terr!”

“Wimin URS Tur!”

And finally:

“Wim NER Smerrterr?”



Yeah, yeah, I get the irony.

And speaking of women, but really just a total tangent, I realized the other day that my gynecologist’s office is on BUSH Street. No joke! How good is that?

So a couple months ago I went on a day-long yoga retreat in Marin. I’ve done this before but always with my friend and faithful neighb, Jennifer. This time I was flying solo. So at the lunch break I was sitting somewhat dorkishly at the big communal table, having one of my twice-a-decade moments of shyness. Just hoping one of the other yoginis might put their play-with-the-outcast-on-the-playground skills to work.

A trio of older women, in their 60s or so, were sitting to my right. And one of them got to talking in a loud and animated enough way that I felt I could scoop hippie vegan soup into my mouth and look at her. You know, pretend that she was talking to me too.

She’d lived in a chicken coop in Georgia, she said. Yes, a chicken coop. Starting when she was 20 until about—long pause, looking up sideways to think—until she was 26. “It had a packed clay floor,” she pointed out. As if we’d all maybe been picturing parquet. They cooked on a grill and had an outdoor water drum that was painted black that they used as a shower.

I was instantly jealous.

When I was 20 I was living in Ohio. Sure that’s rustic and all, but I mean, I had indoor plumbing.

She’d moved to Georgia from Minnesota with her “pack,” as she called them. A group of about eight who I couldn’t help but imagine as a bra-disparaging partner-swapping commune-like klatch.

Again, more envy. Or maybe just deep deep fascination.

And they were potters, of course. That’s to say, throwers of pots. (By this point in the story I think I’d pulled my chair nearly an inch from her, abandoning my soup, enraptured.) They—her “pack”–had waited for their potter’s wheels to arrive in the mail first, then they hit the road for Georgia.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many pottery wheels they had, and why they didn’t just have them shipped straight to Georgia. But I didn’t want to ask too many questions. After all, I was kind of auditing the story as it was.

After more good stuff about one klatch member who was a professor getting fired, and some details on the rigors of heat-free winter-living, she mentioned  she now owns a gallery in Berkeley. The woman at her left has a gallery there too. They said the names of the places, which I of course instantly forgot, but in my mind I envisioned visiting there a lot. Buying stuff. Becoming an apprentice. Keeping a pet cat there.

Even though I kinda hate pottery.

Then this other woman pulls up a chair with her bowl of soup. And for a moment my verging-on-creepy fixation with the gray-haired pot-throwers was broken.

The new woman started chatting with the instructor about how she’s out of town so often for work. So, I summon some social courage and ask her what she does.

And DO YOU KNOW WHAT SHE SAID? She said she is a bee broker.

A BEE broker!!

I didn’t know what that was but I instantly wanted to be one too. BEES! Of course!

So, I say, “So, uh, what is a bee broker?”

And do you know what she said? She said that she has some big rig that’s filled with hives that she brings down to Modesto to the almond farms. She then sets her bees free in the fields. It’s like the farmers rent them! Then at night when it gets all chilly the bees fly back into the truck to go to sleep with in the hive, or have sex with the queen, or do whatever it is they do in there. Then Ms. Bee Broker heads off to another farm.

I almost hugged her.

Now I was going to have to split my weekends between Modesto and the Berkeley pottery studios.

All this talk was more energizing than all the hold-one-nostril breathing and triangle-posing the first half of the retreat had served up. I loved every one of these women. If these gals by were so amazing, what were the ones crouched over their vegan soup over there like? I wanted to start going from woman to woman, looking intently into each of their faces and interviewing them all documentary-style.

I mean, I was feeling like the odds that the next person I’d talk to would be a Bed, Bath & Beyond employee was pretty low. But the thing is, if she had been, I think I would have suddenly slipped into a reverential trance, and praised all that was holy about mattress pads. I was ready to find the love in everyone.

Without drugs!

After lunch and before my yoga, we all hiked to the beach. This hike is pretty crazy gorgeous. If you’re ever in California, call me and I’ll take you to this place. It’s along a super lush valley where these Buddhists have a homestead. You pass all their perfect vegetable and flower gardens, then a silly idyllic horse pasture, and then the path narrows and it’s all just and trees and flowers and birds and butterflies and nature and shit.

What I mean is, it sure is purdy there.

Then when you arrive at the beach, you get that positive ion hit. Whatever that high is that you get from the ocean water. Someone told me about this once and I still believe that there’s something to it, even if it’s really not true.

But clearly in the mode that I was in I needed no more highs of any sort.

Beachside I wandered up to a group of co-yoga-retreaters and sat on a driftwood log with them. (See how socially brave I was getting?) We were looking out at the water, and I was feeling certain one of them was about to tell me something that would make me weep and hug her ankles and think that the world was a beautiful beautiful place. You know. I was just waiting for that.

Even better, I got some excellent book recommendations. These gals were older, but let’s just say we were reading at the same level. We all clucked with praise for that great hedgehog novel. And then they bantered about the name of a few other amazing reads. Eventually I’d borrowed a pencil from one of them and an ATM receipt from another and wrote the all the titles all down. We even talked about our favorite children’s lit because—get this—one of them had been a children’s librarian for, like, 30 years or something. Joy!

If I were to spelunk a few layers down on my desk today, I may even find that paper today and read those books.

Just a day or two after it opened, I went to see the Sex and the City movie with a Mama Posse friend. I never read movie reviews. Having even the smallest inkling of what to expect in a movie destroys it for me. I spend the whole time waiting for whichever scene it is that’s funny or dumb, and I can’t even enjoy my wine. (Yes, smuggling red wine and plastic cups into the movies has become par for the course for me and the Mamas.)

But in the days leading out to my Moms Night Out, Mark, bless his heart, made sure I knew how utterly decimated this movie had gotten by reviewers. It’s badness delighted him.

But whatEVER. We still went. And all of Oakland was out in their fancy. I mean, black girls in stilettos and what looked like prom dresses. I mean, it’s Oakland. If there was any Prada, I didn’t see it.

Me, I was in flip flops.

And do you know what? I LIKED the movie. Sure it was vapid and silly and predictable, and there were probably some culturally-offensive jokes, but it was entertaining. Yes, I actually chuckled—full-out laughed a bit too—and found it perfectly un-intellectually engaging.

On the way out, I think I even complimented a woman on her purple clutch, awash with feel-good audience-mate comraderie.

I’m not exactly sure what all those reviews said—because if I’m disinclined to read reviews before seeing a movie I’m even disinclineder to read them after. Maybe those writers were preparing to see Amistad, and were taken aback when the movie was more about Manolo Blahnik shoes, low-cal cocktails, and menopause. You know, I think they were missing the point.

While I’m at it, do you know what movie I also saw last week? The latest Twilight movie. Oh yes I did.


Sure, I’d had—-okay—a few Mai Tais beforehand. But even without cheap rum coursing through my veins I think I’d be squealing over the dreamy barely-legal cast and walloping my poor friend’s arm during the shirtless scenes. It was entertaining. I enjoyed myself.

And where’s the shame in that?

I’m hardly going to defend the artistic merit of either movie. But I will say, that in a theater full of women who likely spent their days working in courtrooms, or classrooms, or at The Sunglass Hut—or hell, wrangling with clay or bees or young children—for us gals it felt good to put our hair down and our feet up and let the low-browness of it all wash over us. I mean, isn’t that why men watch wrestling?

From what I can tell, despite what movies we may make a big show of going to, that license plate was right. Women are smarter.

1 Comment »

The Walking and the Dead

Posted: November 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, California, City Livin', Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse, Milestones, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Scary Stuff, Walking | 8 Comments »

It was killing me that I forgot my camera. At first at least.

I was in San Francisco at night, kid- and husband-less, roaming around the Day of the Dead celebration with my sister and her friends. And man, was there amazing eye candy. Incredible fodder for photos.

Tons of folks had their faces painted white, with black-hallowed-out looking eyes and other skeleton-like features. That might not sound so terribly spooky, especially on the heels of Halloween two nights before, but trust me, milling around the Mission at night with hundreds, maybe thousands of people who look like that and are carrying orange marigolds and lit candles and photos of their loves ones who have died—it creates a certain ambiance.

There were lots of full-bore costumes too. Men in elaborate Victorian high-necked dresses, long full skirts, wigs with curls piled high. I mean, men in San Francisco use a bi-annual teeth-cleaning as an excuse to wear a dress. Troupes of roving drummers and dancers festooned in jingly gold wrist and ankle bracelets swept past. One woman in white face was carried on a platform Cleopatra-like by four attendants. Even dogs, toddlers, and babes in arms had face paint or photos pinned to them.

Ostensibly there was a parade, but the streets and sidewalks were so flooded with people, everyone walking or dancing and moving forward en masse, it was impossible to tell parade participants from on-lookers.

In the midst of it all I thought, “Why would I ever want to live anywhere but the Bay Area?” And, “I’m definitely coming back here next year—every year.” Also, “I wonder when Kate and Paige will be old enough to see this without freaking out?” And, “Why oh why did I forget my effing camera?”

At one point my sister’s housemate, who I’d bemoaned my cameralessness to, handed me hers. “Snap away!” she trilled. But the thing felt heavy and awkward in my hands. I tried to focus on someone, but they swept by before I could ever orient myself.

I handed it back to her. “Ah thanks,” I said. “But I’m actually fine.” After all my lamenting I realized I didn’t want to be taking pictures at all. I just wanted to be drinking it all in directly.

It’s been over a week now—ten days to be precise—since we experienced a momentous, long-awaited event here Chez McClusky. Paigey has finally, blessedly, started walking.

It happened on a Friday at a divey Mexican restaurant. The girls and I met some of my Mama’s Posse friends for a last-minute lunch. Our kids were crawling everywhere, spreading rice and beans on the carpet like confetti, and watching Yo Gabba Gabba on Sacha’s iPhone as a last-ditch effort to maintain decorum before we all fled home for nap-time. Mary had dashed out suddenly a few minutes before, when she’d realized her parking meter had expired.

And from that utter mayhem—or maybe in an attempt to free herself from it—Paige quietly stood up, set a course forward, and jerkily placed one foot in front of the other toward the restaurant’s front door. Sacha and I watched stunned, and I commented to the booth of lunching lesbians next to us just how long I’d been waiting for this day.

“Oh I know about late walkers,” one gal at the the booth’s edge said. “I have twins. One walked at 12 months, and the other waited ’til 16.”

“Really?” I said. “Well Paige here, she’s twenty-one months old.”

At a slight incline in the floor, Paige wavered, fell backwards, then pushed herself up and resumed her herky-jerky strut. I was standing frozen in joy and disbelief when the dykes next to me all started clapping and hooting. Paige looked back at them grinning, fell on her butt again, then got up and headed for threshold and the open door.

I was so touched by the enthusiasm of those strangers, I realized later I should’ve done something impulsive and celebratory like picked up their bill. But in the moment I only managed to snap out of my rooted watching mode with enough time to grab Paige before she hit the sidewalk solo.

It’s weird waiting for something for so long and then having it suddenly there. I thought I’d want to shout from the rooftops that my girl was walking. In fact, I came home that day and attempted to write a splashy celebratory blog post. But my heart wasn’t in it. Not that I wasn’t happy, mind you. But it turned out to be a quieter sort of contentment, not a giddy yelling-out-the-sunroof kinda glee.

I feel that weird but distinct brand of Mama guilt that it’s taken so long for me to share the news. But I’ve been spending the time well at least—slowly following Paige as she waddles down the sidewalk, or taking half-steps alongside her as she proudly walks though Kate’s schoolyard to pick her up.

I’m always on the go, always happily hurrying from one place to the next, but I can’t imagine a better reason for slowing down these past several days than to walk through the world at Paige’s wonderful new pace.


Welcome to the Team

Posted: August 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cancer, Drink, Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse, Mom, Other Mothers, Parenting | 7 Comments »

I have a public service announcement.

The next time you find yourself about to tell someone, “I don’t know how you do it!” please hit your internal Pause button. And while the world is freeze-framed, ask yourself whether whatever it is that the person is doing that’s wowing you so much is even something they want to be doing. Or ever imagined they’d have to do.

Then, before hitting Play and returning to live-action life, decide whether or not to open your trap.

Like, right after my mom died. Amidst effusions of sympathy (that I truly did appreciate) people would say things like, “Personally? I just couldn’t deal with losing my mother.” Or, “You and your sisters caring for your mom like you did. I just don’t know how you did it.”

The thing is, it wasn’t like we signed up for a maternal cancer crisis like you do for the NFL football package on DirectTV.

How do you do it? I don’t know. You just do it because you suddenly find yourself in the shit-sucking situation of having to.

So Saturday. Footloose and giddy with a sitter home with the kids, Mark and I skipped up to Napa to celebrate Surh-Luchtel Cellars’ ten year anniversary. An occasion which, as you might imagine, requires one to drink excessively so as to not hurt the winemaker-hosts’ feelings.

At one point in the party, a point where I’d amply soaked in the fine Surh-Luchtel product, I met the First Lady of the winery’s local Mama friends. And all loose and boozy as I was—though God knows my social skids need no greasin’—I blathered and fawned over one woman’s great haircut.

It was super short and fabulous. One of those styles that the topography of my head and the girth of my schnoz would prevent me from wearing. A look few women go for, and fewer pull off well.

Me: “Blah blah blah known Shelley for 17 years, blah blah blah perfect day for this party [panting boozy wine breath], blah blah blah I just love your hair!”

Her: “Oh, thanks. My six-year-old’s getting chemo, so I decided to shave my head when she started going bald.”

You’ll be happy to know that, even in my wine-saturated state, I didn’t start weeping, throw my arms around her neck, and sob and snot on her dress. I mean, it was the last thing I was expecting to hear on that carefree (and did I mention wine-laden?) day. But I just loved the straight-shootin’ matter-of-fact way she told me.

And I immediately wanted to shave my head too.

Tousling her hair she said it’d been growing out, and was actually fairly long at that point. She told me it’s the third time she’s shaved it. The first time, she and her husband threw a party and pledged a donation to a leukemia charity for every person who shaved their head. And forty of their friends did.

At this point, I was casing the catering table for a plastic knife so I could start lopping off my own locks.

I wanted to be her best friend. I wanted to imagine that I could handle the unthinkable misery of a child with cancer with the same degree of spunk and love and strength. All that and her hand bag was really fabulous too.

Our conversation continued with me rambling on about life and cancer and dealing the hand you get and the infinite wellspring of a Mama’s love that brings you to places of being-able-to-deal that you couldn’t imagine you could ever get to, but hey look, there you are.

I wanted her to see me as someone who got it. One of the cool people. Not one of the folks who I’m assuming react to her story with fear and discomfort, stammering out awkward apologies and aw-that’s-awfuls.

But really, she probably just thought I was drunk.

Whatever the case, before I left we exchanged blog URLs. And I found out where she got her purse. (Though, damn it, they only have the tote left.)

I’m sober now and all I can say is, MY GOD, I have no idea how she does it. And I hope hope hope I never have to find out.

It’s comforting knowing a good knee surgeon, a defense attorney, a locksmith—even though you hope you’ll never have to use their services. And now, without even looking, I found myself a model for amazing maternal behavior in the face of heartbreak. Someone who I’d be thrilled to be even one-third as impressive as, given the same situation. A most excellent addition to my team of experts.

Rock on, sister. My heart—and maybe even my hair someday—goes out to you.


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.