Under Pressure

Posted: May 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: California, Drink, Food, Holidays, Husbandry, Mama Posse, Misc Neuroses, Mom, Sisters | 4 Comments »

My birthday falls on Mother’s Day this year, giving me a small (sour) taste of what it’s like for those poor souls who are born on Christmas.

And God help dear Mark, who has his feet up in the starting blocks awaiting my decision on what I want to do. He’s desperate to make the day special for me, but to date we’ve had several discussions where he’s attempted to focus my thoughts and narrow down the options I spew out. Each of these conversations has ended with him squeezing the top of his head and whimpering softly.

I just can’t decide.

So far we have lunch reservations at 12:15 at ad hoc, Thomas Keller’s allegedly (hopefully) family-friendly restaurant, and at 1:15 at a bistro called The Girl and the Fig that I’ve been wanting to try. Not that we intend to challenge the girls’ restaurant manners—or any progress I’ve made on my postpartum bod—by eating two back-to-back lunches. I just thought it’d be nice to have options in Napa and Sonoma. (And for karma’s sake, we’ll cancel whatever ressie we don’t intend to use in advance. And by “advance” I mean within AT LEAST an hour of our reservation. If I’ve made a decision by then.)

The thing is, there’s also part of me that wonders if I just want to have Mark pack a staggeringly fabulous picnic lunch and take the kids for a hike or to the beach or something.

I mean, doesn’t that sound good too?

It’s one of those times I really wish I lived in Wichita. It’d be so freeing knowing we were going to Applebee’s since it’d be the only game in town. And I’m not sure, but I don’t think they’ve got much outdoor splendor to add in as a contender.

At night we have a sitter. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I haven’t determined whether darkening the door of A Cote, our cherished local haunt, makes sense after a potentially big lunch. I mean, it’s so tacky getting gout during a recession.

There’s also been some talk amongst the Mama Posse about getting together for some late afternoon cocktails that day. A proposal I never refuse from those women. (Or practically anyone else, for that matter.) But we were kinda tipsy when that idea came up, so who knows.

I’ve been telling most people that what’s likely to happen is I’ll get a migraine from the stress of trying to have a fun day to the second power, and’ll end up spending it in a dark room, dry-mouthed and fraught with pain, clutching an ice pack to my noggin.

But here’s the thing. I think I’ve even made that claim enough times now that the pressure to have a migraine is also too great. I’ll probably end up having performance anxiety over that too.

I’ve never understood when people just decide to “not do” holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas because it’s too much of a hassle, or there’s some negative association with the holiday they want to sweep under their emotional carpet. I can’t help but think that making those days not feel like those days takes more energy than just cooking a damn turkey. Which is to say, the duck-and-cover avoidance approach just isn’t an option for me on Sunday.

Ellen emailed last week to see what I’m doing for Mother’s Day. She’d spaced on it also being my birthday, and suggested we get together and do something for Mom, since we still haven’t convened for her death-iversary. And at this point I’m thinking, what the hell. Maybe we should just celebrate Fourth of July too.


I Raise My Glass to You, Mom

Posted: April 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Drink, Husbandry, Mama Posse, Manners, Mom, Sisters | 1 Comment »

I spent the better part of dinner tonight trying to hold my lips the way my mother did when she drank wine, and trying (sadly, literally) to not wet my pants laughing.

She used to do this thing when she put a wine glass to her mouth where it looked like she was playing a flute. You know, like she was sorta flattening her lips to blow, with the corners slightly upturned like the early stage of a super fake smile.

It was her Fancy Wine-Drinkin’ lips that she did without fail, every time. I mean, she could have a glass of water and one of wine that she was working at the same time and she could pick either one up at random while conducting a conversation and maybe even cooking dinner and she could still somehow remember to do the Wine Drinkin’ Lips for the wine glass, and just drink like a normal human from the water glass. It was, in a way, impressive.

Unsurprisingly, this slayed my sisters and I. And not just as kids or anything. We’d howl and slap each other laughing (that’s something us Italian Americans do) whenever we saw this, well into adulthood. And of course, we’d razz her about it MERCILESSLY.

(I still regret never having done a blindfolded test where we’d hold up several types of glasses to her to see if she could somehow intuit the presence of a wine glass. My hypothesis is that she’d know.)

So anyway, as I’m here trying to do it during our heat-wave dinner on the porch, Mark is looking at me and trying to show me what face I’m making, and saying, “Okay, so this is it?” But half the time he’s holding his lips out away from his teeth like the teeth’ve got something on them he doesn’t want the rest of his mouth to touch. And of course, that’s all wrong (and frankly, I thought, not even trying very hard), so I’m all, “No, NO, like THIS.” But then unable to keep a straight face to get the flattened flute lips really right. They need to be all pulled back like a super tight face lift with just the smallest opening to let the wine come through. The small hole there is I think what she thought made it all good manners and fancy.

And hey, compared to how I pull corks out of wine bottles with my teeth and just start chugging at the end of my harried kid-tendin’ days, it WAS fancy, man.

So anyway, Mark’s all, “Wait, are your neck veins supposed to be pulsating when you do it?” And he’s sticking his jaw out real tight like a maniac. (Not, by the way, remotely what I was doing.) But hey, it’s not like I have all this isometric lip strength that my mother had from doing it for so long. I mean, it’s not like she looked like she was bench pressing twice her weight when she sipped a pinot grigio.

Finally, after ignoring the children for most of the meal, we gave up on it. Clearly Mark was not taking my attempts at perfecting the look seriously enough, and I was starting to question whether I just didn’t have the skillz any more to nail it.

Besides, in the teeniest small way all the Mom thoughts started to get me feeling a bit sad. I mean, how am I ever going to get it right if I can’t ever watch her do it again?

Last week, on Friday, marked five years since she died. And on that day the so-great-I-don’t-deserve-them Mama Posse had a lovely just-us-and-the-kids garden party as a tribute to my Mama. But I’d likely gone so extremely overboard in stressing to them that yes, a little lunch would be lovely, but please no dead mother poetry readings, or presentations of large poster board collages with pictures of her and words like “#1 Mom!” cut out from magazines. I’d made it clear in my lacking-subtlety way that if I wanted to “go there” and talk about her, I would.

Every time one of the kids called out, “Mom!” to one of us, I think the Mamas were cringing and all pulling them aside and whispering, “Owen, I told you to call me Sacha today not Mom.”

What gals.

And, as it turns out, that day, I didn’t want to go there. It wasn’t that I couldn’t for fear of what I’d unleash, there just wasn’t anything there to really go to. So aside from Mark sweetly saying to me at one point in the evening how happy he is that he knew her, her five-year death-iversary came and went like no big thing.

Usually Ellen and I and our kids get together on that day and on Mom’s birthday in January, and I cook Polish food. We’ll sometimes pull out old pics of Mom, and Ellen–since she’s kinda a hippie–tends to have some sort of special candle lit.

But last weekend Ellen was out of town, her kids with their dad. So we’ll schedule something for another day soon. And maybe then it’ll feel more normal or natural for me to think or talk a bit, or even a lot, about Mom. And if it just turns out to be another great meal with the intention of it being a tribute to her, that’s okay too.

The one thing I’ve learned about the grief thing is you never know when it’ll strike, and it’s foolish to try to summon some disingenuous desperate emotion when you’re heart’s just not going there on its own. No one’s looking to anyone to put on a big show. And not that we have to emulate her, but Lord knows, that wasn’t how Vicki rolled.

One thing I will have to make sure of when Ellen and I get together, is that she takes a crack at the Wine Lips thing. If my memory serves me, she has a knack for imitating it. And even if she doesn’t get it quite right, I’d happily welcome another laughing sesh just watching her try.

Oh, Mama. I miss you.

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The View from Here

Posted: April 6th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Drink, Food, Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse, Shopping, Travel | 2 Comments »

It’s Monday morning. And Paige is napping. And it’s warm and sunny and my laptop and I are curled up together on the front porch and the neighbor’s dog is barking and a steady stream of nannies are pushing stroller-loads of kids to the nearby park. And I’m looking at the flowering plants I bought recently–they’re hanging somewhat limply–and I wonder if amidst the myriad other things he did, Mark ever managed to water them this weekend.

Because, for three days and two nights–or really, three days and three nights of parenting when you consider the kids were asleep when I got home yesterday–I was on a blissful Moms Gone Wild weekend, with my fabulous far away friend, Julie.

This all-by-myself like a big girl extravaganza was my delightful Christmas gift from Mark, who as it turns out does have some appreciation for how hard my job can be, and the fact that despite not having a 401K, salary, or discernible career path, the position also lacks sick leave and vacation days. So, God bless him, I was given this sorely needed and greatly appreciated junket.

Now, some people might wonder if it’s kinda weird to suddenly find oneself kid-free with all the nose and ass-wipin’ I’m used to doing all day. You know, taking a look back at the empty carseats and having that unsettling feeling that you’ve forgotten something. But really, I supported a lifestyle of kidlessness for some 37 years. And I’ve found that not being responsible for anyone else is like riding a bike. Neglect it for a while, but when you do hop back on it’s like your legs just know how to pump those pedals.

And since the mere act of aloneness is part of the thrill of it all, I didn’t have to wait until I was perched on a bar stool in Breckenridge for my weekend hijinx to begin. The fun kicked in Friday afternoon, the moment I pulled away from the curb and turned the kiddie CD off and LIVE 105 on.

I mean, other mothers understand this. Out at breakfast that very morning, the Mama Posse was angling to get a little contact high off of my upcoming weekend.

“Okay, tell me everything you are doing,” Mary commanded. “Every plan you have. I need to hear it all laid out.”

And Megan: “You are going to be on the airplane with no children! You can nap! Read a magazine! I’d be happy with just the airplane ride alone.”

I hated to gloat, really, but all those things were true. All the other people on the long-term parkng shuttle were biding their time until they arrived at their terminals. In my new fancy-free untethered Mama mode I was in a mental limbo contest on a beach in Jamaica. That was the shuttle bus ride of a lifetime. (The driver, who didn’t even help with my bags, still may be wondering why he got such a handsome tip.)

The thing is, aside from all the foolish thrills of doing things like peeing without children yapping at my heels, the weekend was also filled with many legitimately fun and beautiful and delicious activities–things even a normal person would find particularly noteworthy and engaging.

We ate a dazzling meal in Boulder on Friday night, giving me one evening to admire our SF-transplant friends’ hip hip hip new house (no Haight Ashbury Victorian that), hang with the husband-folk, then cup the chins of their darling children before Julie also ripped off her mother uniform, smashed it down deep in a garbage can, and we hopped into the car to four-wheel footloose to Breckenridge.

It snowed! We got 90-minute hot stone massages! We sat at the canonical ain’t-this-livin’ Mexican restaurant drinking the requisite margaritas and taking silly pictures of ourselves. I bought a pair of barely-can-breathe skintight jeans that have those super faded creases at the crotch and buttons on the back pockets because sometimes it’s fun to dress like a 14-year-old when you’re 41 just because other women at the store tell you how hot you look and you believe them, damn it. We got mochas at the World’s Quaintest Starbucks, housed in a little yellow cabin with dark green shutters and a wee front porch. So cute you could pinch its cheeks. We bought matching black hipster hats that managed to fit our small small heads. And after drinking more than two but less than five margaritas, we went to a bar that had pool tables, and even though it should have happened, when we walked in no one handed us arm bands that said ‘chaperone’ to wear. All those kids were actin’ like it was okay that WE COULD HAVE BEEN THEIR MOTHERS, and were just letting us sit there nicely with them having exactly what we didn’t need (more alcohol) but wasn’t the point of the whole weekend about us getting ourselves some of what we didn’t really need anyway?  (Case in point, the aforementioned jeans.)

Oh there were other things we did. Like slept until 10AM, thankyouverymuch. But really, I don’t need to continue to rattle on about how I read the entire way on the flight back. Because, even though I’m back from Breckenridge and my hangover is almost nearly altogether behind me, my Moms Gone Wild weekend is still lingering. I’m still feeling it out here on the front porch where in a few minutes Paigey will likely wake up and we’ll figure out what groceries it is we might need, and whether we should walk or drive to get Kate from school, and if there’s maybe time to pick up some Easter Bunny supplies along the way.

I’m back in saddle. I’ve got this routine nailed. There’s not much new in these parts since I left, but the familiar views I’m so used to seeing from here have taken on a fresh new sheen.

Thank you, Mark. This was the best Christmas ever.


Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Lord

Posted: March 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Drink, Food, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Mama Posse, Miss Kate, Travel | 1 Comment »

We just got back from a super fun long weekend in Lake Tahoe.

Kate went sledding for the first time–actually saw a legitimate amount of snow for the first time. (“You know what, Mama? It looks like Fluff.” That’s my sugar-free girl!) We had some delicious hilarious gin-and-wine-drenched dinners with the fabulous Mama Posse families, and boiled ourselves silly in a huge hot tub. I even got a kid-free day of snowboarding in with my girls Sacha and Mary.

But of all of it, one comment from our friend Jack made our whole weekend.

The kids–all nine of them–were blessedly asleep, and us grown-ups were eating a lovely pasta dish the Grippies had prepared. Jack was sitting near Mark and I, and at one point when another conversation was brewing at the far end of the table, Jack looked up from his plate and said to Mark and I, “You know, I wanted to mention to you guys about Kate–”

At which point I inhaled and winced, bracing myself for whatever it was he was about to say.

That she pooped on the floor in the bathroom earlier, and he had to clean it up? That she bit off a chunk of his daughter’s ear, Mike Tyson-style? That he’s never met such a, well, “spirited” child–how do we keep up with her?

It’s not that Kate’s so out of control, really. It’s just that with a three-year-old there’s really no telling what may happen. Especially on a weekend when she’s marauding 24×7 in a large pack of friends like some feral child on speed.

Anyway, as Mark and I exchange a quick nervous glance, Jack finishes his sentence saying, “–that she’s really polite.”

Mark and I lean in stunned and say in unison: “Really? Polite?”

Jack: “Yeah. I mean, in interactions I’ve had with her this weekend she’s been, you know, really good about saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and stuff.”

Mark and I grinned and gleefully grasped each others’ hands like game show contestants who’d just won a car. Relieved, thrilled, and incredulous that all the seemingly futile work of reminding Miss Kate to “use her manners” in what seems like three-minute intervals over the course of the past two-plus years, might actually, really, finally, be paying off.

Will you get a load of that.

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Long May We Ride

Posted: February 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse | 4 Comments »

Today I bumped into a woman at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Berkeley. In that inbred Bay Area way, she’s someone who I almost knew a few different ways–we had the same midwife, a mutual friend, and we took the same hospital tour to show our older kids where mommy’d be birthin’ the new baby.

Oddly though, we’d never met.

And then about a year ago our daughters were playing together at a playground, so we were kind of thrown into chatting as we monitored the older kids and bouncy-walked our newborns (who, of course, freakily happened to be born just a few days apart).

Fate seemed to be matchmaking us, so we exchanged email addresses.

And we got together once. Met up at the same playground, brought snacks, watched the kids play, and talked non-stop. She’s from the East Coast–New York, I think–and talks as fast and as sarcastically as me. We discovered a handful more things we had in common–the tug between the East Coast and West, being the same age, mixed feelings about taking a break from work, yadda yadda yadda.

By the time Mark got home that night I was envisioning the dinner party we’d have where he and her husband would hit it off like a house on fire. I’d planned our joint family summer vacations to Fire Island, and how we’d get matching friendship ankle-bracelet tattoos after some boozed-up Mommies Night Out.

Okay, well not so much about the tattoos really. But I was excited about having met a potentially cool new friend.

At the time–just fresh out of work again and lamenting the fact that the park is packed with nannies and no one who wasn’t getting paid to change diapers all day–I was, I’ll say it, desperate for a good local Mama friend. Preferably one who was around during the days, at my social beckon call.

And to my shock and awe, my casual follow-up emails to the Parallel Life Mama–in which I swear I didn’t mention anything about the blood-exchange sisterhood ceremony I was planning for us–went unanswered. In fact, when I bumped into her at a yoga class a month or so later I was fearful that she’d be embarassed to see me since she was so clearly, well, just not that into me.

Which, heck I’ll admit, stymied me.

I mean, it truly seemed like we had fun together. But maybe she just wasn’t taking resumes for new friends at the time? Maybe she seems to connect amazingly well with a lot of people but inside she’s mentally re-arranging the crap in her garage? Maybe the over-abundance of self-esteem my parents raised me with was finally–at the ripe old age of 41–rearing up to bite me in the ass?

Of course, at the yoga class I still gave her every opportunity to re-engage a best friendship with me. And I think she even did mention something about getting the girls together again. But damn my tenacious optimism. After that class, all I heard were crickets.

At any rate, seeing her today I was in such a different place. No longer longing for a daytime adult conversation that didn’t require me to use a Spanish-English dictionary. No longer starved to compare notes with someone about tactics for managing cradle cap. No longer freaked out about how the stay-at-home mom thing would ultimately play out in my psyche and my personal hygiene.

Because here I am. One year later. Frankly so comfy in this Mama role that I fear Mark will have to pry me out of my Merona sweatpants and happy homebody ways when the time eventually comes for me to add to the family’s bottom line. But more than that, now I’m feeling flush with friendship, and gratefully so.

Tuesday we returned from 11 days on the East Coast. Once we got somewhat settled I started a happy ritualistic process of checking in with my three Mama Posse friends like some OCD ball player running the bases over and over again–text one, call the next, check in somehow with the third, then circle back to the first with an email about some little Kate-ism or can I borrow something or when can we all get out to a movie or other. Maybe not quite so manic as I’m describing it, but certainly there were lots of phone calls that started with excited high-pitched hey-how-ARE-yous.

Unless my Dad is sending them checks or something (Note: Call him to ask about this) I can’t help by kinda sorta think they were as genuinely happy to reconnect with me as I was with them.

Take that, other woman who botched a chance at my friendship!

A few days before we left on our trip I was at our local bakery/gourmet grocery/coffee shop watering hole. The kind of place that guests who visit from places like Kansas short-circuit when they enter and need to lean against a wall for a few minutes to wrangle with the fact that they go to Applebees a lot. Anyway, I’m there and I see a woman from the ‘hood who I’ve done some community work with. She was in front of me in line and asked if she could buy eight small pastry boxes.

When she saw me she turned and explained that she was going to meet her mother’s group. A group of eight woman who’ve been convening since her teen-aged daughter was a baby.

“Isn’t Madeleine in college now?” I asked, curious mostly to know where she got in.

“Yes! She’s in her second semester at Wellesley,” she said brightly.

The woman behind the counter handed her the boxes and said, “No charge. No worries.” (Which only made me love the place more.)

After profusions of polite thanks to the bakery lady, she turned to me. “So yeah, we still get together regularly even though the kids are in college now. And once a month we make care packages. Everyone brings eight of something, so we send out big boxes and the kids end up getting eight different little gifts or cookies or whatever–one thing from each of us.”

At which point I think I swooned with just how sweet and fun and excellent that was, and how amazing it is that she and those women are still all hanging tight.

When I see the gals next–tomorrow at Sacha’s Oscar party, in fact–I’ll have to try to remember amidst the maurauding children, attempts at hearing Oscar speeches, and relentless glasses of wine I plan to consume, to tell them about this idea. Because I have every intention of us doing that some day. I’ll just need their help remembering it 15 years from now.


Pizza, Wedding Champagne, and History Being Made

Posted: November 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Mama Posse | 1 Comment »

It wasn’t until some time late Monday that I realized that Mark and I staying home alone with the kids on election night was a poor decision. So I called out to my Friday Mama Posse like a deer raises her tail to signal her kinfolk.

Sure we have young kids. Yes, it’s a school night. But heralding this new desperately needed change, something that’s been dangled in front of us tantalizingly for so very long–if, or when, we finally get it and seal the deal–we really need to be in the company of friends.

So I heated up some homemade squash soup, tossed champagne left-over from our wedding into the fridge, and called an order in to Extreme Pizza.

By 7:30 Megan had already cried tears of joy, most adults were wearing old party hats from Kate’s second birthday, and I was drunkenly photographing my “I Voted” sticker in different settings–on a doll, on Baby Wes, on Mary‘s forehead. Oh, and let’s not forget me making Drew pretend to shoot up with the Fisher Price doctor’s kit syringe.

Good times.

One could make the argument that the kids–bleary-eyed one-year-olds and amped up three-year-olds who were ravaging the house with a toxic combination of toys, organic Teddy Puffs, and each other’s rabid encouragement–were acting more mature than the adults.

Aside from the two lucky ones who scored our limited Baby Sleeping Vessels, the kids stayed up way too late. And the adults drank way too much.

We’re all paying for it today, and I can’t think of any reason more worth it.

Barack on, Obama! Once these hangovers pass we can all work on getting used to what it feels like to be proud of our President. And heck, maybe even our country.

Can I hear an Amen?!

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Ode to Rainbow-Striped Umbrellas

Posted: October 4th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: City Livin', Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse | No Comments »

Invariably when you’re traveling and you tell someone you live in Northern California, you get that tired old oh-sure-it’s-pretty-and-all-but-what-about-earthquakes?! reaction. Some folks will verbalize it, and with others you can just tell by looking at them that they’re thinking it and are silently pitying your poor sense of judgment.

As a longtime NoCal resident–16 years now!–I find the whole earthquake thing an absurd reason to avoid living here. (God please spare us tonight if The Big One should hit.) I mean, there are far better reasons to not live here. Exorbitant real estate prices, atrocious bagels, crappy public schools, the almost spooky lack of corn muffins, the unswimmably cold Pacific Ocean….

Don’t get me wrong. There are many many reasons why this is one of the most amazing places in the U.S. to live, but I’m also aware of the place’s pitfalls. I mean, the bagels. Are. Truly. Dreadful.

Though one thing I will say we’re blessedly exempt from is the maddening small talk about the weather that seems to comprise about 45% of all conversational airtime in New England. Frankly, I’d happily plunk my house astride a fault line to live free of that natter.

It’s not that we’re such brilliant conversationalists here on the West Coast. More likely that our weather tends to be so damn predictable it becomes a conversational neutral. Instead we drone on incessantly about sky-high real estate prices. (I guess we’re still boring, just on different topics.)

But every once and a while you get a day like yesterday, and all those repressed or misplaced weather
hounds come out of hiding. And sometimes they’re the least likely

So when the Friday Mama Posse convened, the mothers and babes in
arms sat at Sacha’s kitchen table, and the three-year-olds occasionally tore past in a howling squealing stream. A couple times in the blur I noticed little Ella B. clutching a child-sized rainbow striped umbrella.

Running in from the backyard at one point she called out triumphantly, “I think the rain is coming, Mama!” Causing Megan to laugh and turn to us, “She’s been talking about this all morning. The girl is so excited that it’s going to rain today.” Mary chimed in that she totally was too. I think we actually all agreed. After the typical six-month or so rain-free stretch, an impending downpour was fraught with novelty. Sure, even excitement.

Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but notice other people looking up at the gray sky, marveling. No dramatic leaf colors. No city-stopping snowstorms. We don’t even have many of those sunny-but-chilly days everyone back East gleefully calls crisp. Sure, you can haul out some heavier sweaters and even boots if you like, though during the days you may still opt for flip flops. Our seasonal changes are more subtle than the showy Midwest and East Coast drama. But to some sensitive California souls they don’t go unnoticed.

As the day wound down I chatted with a neighbor out in front of the house. The sun was setting so early it seemed, and the air was cooling off. The much-anticipated rain hadn’t started yet, but likely would in a few hours. Even though in our mellow family mode we’d be staying in anyway, I remarked it was the perfect Friday night to be home, snugged in warm and cozy, watching a movie.

Back inside, Mark had dinner underway and called out from the kitchen if I wanted a drink. After a moment’s thought, I jumped into the new season with both feet and said I’d take a bourbon and Coke.

Ah, yes. Fall indeed.

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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.


The Remote Control of Life

Posted: September 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate | 4 Comments »

Am I the only one who wishes real life was like Tivo?

I mean, sometimes I feel like if I could just hit Pause for a few minutes (or hours)–freezing the rest of the world, not me–it’d give me a chance to run around like a madwoman and get my shit together, even slap on some lip gloss and smooth down my clothes before taking a deep cleansing breath through the nostrils, smiling serenely, then hitting Resume.

Wouldn’t that just rock?

Yesterday I totally needed Tivo Life functionality. We were at our local kiddie digs, Frog Park, and I was chatting with an extremely super duper pregnant woman. Kate ran up to us and asked her, “Do you have a baby in your belly?” to which she laughed and said “Yes! I do!” (I think she was in that nearly almost overdue get-this-thing-out-of-me phase. The Fourth Trimester, as it were.)

Anyway, then Kate looked up at me with a quizzical head tilt and asked, “How do they put babies in the belly, Mama?”

At which point I nearly swooned and needed to hold onto Huge Preg-o for support. Nearly.

Instead, several possible and seemingly inappropriate answers raced through my head, along with the thought “Why don’t I have a canned response ready? Why the hell am I so unprepared for this?” And also the thought, “She’s not even three, for God’s sake! Isn’t it a bit early for this question?!”

Thankfully, Large Pregster had waddled off to help her ecto-child who was experiencing some sort of monkey bar issue. So at least my stuttering, blathering answer would take place in relative privacy. But still. I needed that Tivo Pause button.

But then, in the next split second–since this dense stream of neurotic thoughts managed to whirl through my noggin at a furious pace–Kate squealed and pointed across the playground. “Look at that little dog!!” And like a blur she ran off to inspect a wee decrepit Chihuahua who was tied up to the fence, her question to me nearly instantly forgotten.

Uh, phew!

Having had some time to reflect upon this, I’m still utterly at a loss for how I’d answer her in an age-appropriate way. I’m hoping that the Friday Mama Posse will have some brilliance and insight to send my way. So cross your fingers that the question doesn’t resurface before then.

In the meantime, I think the obvious solution is to get a dog.