Thursday, September 28, 2006

Love *Thursday: 3 Little Words

I didn't have a heart-bursting, knee-jellying moments the first time I saw or held my babies. (Maybe I was just a little strung out from the 44 hours and 20 hours of labor, respectively, followed by the frosting on top known as a C-section each time; but I digress.) I'm not very good at baby book-keeping and can't remember details of milestones like first smiles and teeth. I haven't printed and album-ized any pictures of the kids since way before Opie was born.

But I do remember with crystal clarity the early dawn when I held 20-month-old Jo on the couch, trying to coax a few more minutes of sleep from her. And instead of sleeping, she said "I wuv you, Mommy." Talk about melting my overtired heart.

And now Opie (*because of whose sleep strike this entry is a day late) is doing it too. A week o so ago I was carrying him down the stairs. When I said "I love you," he replied "ah-luh yoo!" and rested his head on my shoulder to show he really meant it. Now it's like a party trick--I keep making him do it over and over. My very own Mama's boy!

However, if he wakes up at 10 p.m. and stays awake for 4 straight hours again, then we're going to have a very different kind of talk.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

As a courtesy to the next passenger

...we suggest that you use your paper towel to wipe out the basin.

You know that sign in airplane bathrooms? I have a few more I'd like to have printed up.

1. As a courtesy to the next parent arriving in the baby's room after dark, we suggest that you remove toys from floor in the vicinity of the crib, and always be sure the backup pacifiers are properly stowed in the designated area for easy access.

2. As a courtesy to the next patron in the drive-through lane, we suggest that you confirm that your car is indeed in "DRIVE" and not "REVERSE" prior to leaving the window.

3. As a courtesy to the next patient, we suggest that after you pee in a cup and test your urine, you throw the cup in the garbage and not leave it sitting atop the toilet paper dispenser.

P.S. We can't believe we have to spell this out.

P.P.S. Eww.

Share yours in the comments!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

At least now we have a spare

Lesson learned: Prior to spending $30 on a replacement remote control, do a toddler mindmeld to figure out where original remote has been safely stashed.

pitched in the pitcher

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Love Thursday: Nannies, babysitters, friends

I've written before about my mom and how I feel lucky to have grown up as the child of a working mother. A few Thursdays ago, Mary Tsao wrote beautifully about how much her kids' caregiver, Rosa, means to her and her family. I still remember all the babysitters we had as kids, and the wonderful relationships we had with them. I never felt that they were replacing my parents. Instead, I felt blessed to have another special person in my life, caring about me. Other kids didn't always have that!

Denise was my very first babysitter, when I was just a colicky babe. She came to my wedding, and my sister is named after her.

Sue let us watch People's Court every day, but she also played Rusty the Bailiff to my brother's Judge Wapner without any hesitation. She designated special "color days" every week or so, when we'd wear green clothes, eat green foods, and do green things like climb trees or make frogs out of green felt. She made us a deck of Old Maid cards featuring people we knew and odd characters from around town. When she got married, my little sister was her flower girl. When her son was born, we doted on him like he was our own special baby doll.

Carol made us waffles and ice cream for after-school snacks. Sometimes she even made funnel cakes. It was like having the county fair in our kitchen every day.

Ghislaine was a French au pair whose father was descended from royalty and owned a hillside in Savoie, an apartment in Paris, and another in Nice. She was only with us for four months (we inherited her from another family that was going through a divorce) but 25 years later, our families still keep in touch. She and her husband and sons actually came to Mayberry to visit just a few weeks after Opie was born.

After cutting her teeth on me and my siblings, Rosemary went on to become a preschool teacher and eventually directed a child care center. Several years ago, she came across an article I wrote for the magazine I used to work for, remembered me, and sent me a note filled with fond memories of our family.

I think I love Love Thursday.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Your child might be a binky addict if

...upon being instructed to stow his Nuks in the crib so he can go downstairs for breakfast, he cheerfully complies; but only after first looking you in the eye, taking a long, deliberate drag on the Nuk in his mouth, then switching to the backup Nuk in his hand for another long, eyes-closed pull.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Who doesn't want to use the word "apothecary"?

--No cause for alarm, said the apothecary, once he had rejoined his friends,
Monsieur Binet has given me his guarantee that precautions have been taken. No
sparks will fall. The pumps are full. Our beds await us.

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, p. 123 (Penguin Classics edition, translated by Geoffrey Wall)

The lovely Bubandpie tagged me for this meme: Tell us the 5th through 8th sentences on page 123 of the book nearest you. Since all the books around me have an average of 32 pages (and one sentence per page, if that), I defaulted to my nightstand and this month's book club book. Since I haven't gotten to this page yet (and it's been at least 15 years since the last time I read this book), I can't offer much in the way of context. But beds awaiting sounds good anytime, doesn't it?

I tag Binkytown, Jamie, and Lady M. However, you have a choice. B&P also did a second meme, naming her top 10 TV characters of all time. So do that one if you'd rather. I didn't 'cause I'm lazy like that, and 'cause I got bogged down in debating Carter vs. Ross and how can you choose just one Brady child?

Like I said... beds await.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I thought I dropped out of the rat race

Instead, I think I’ve just become an honorary soccer mom. This is a crosspost from my work blog … italics for the stuff that was censored out of that post.

Monday: Kick-off session for religious education. Jo will be attending Sunday school for the first time (the conversation in which she asked Julie whether Tacy would be going to Sunday school too was priceless). The meeting started at 3:45. I figured I’d stop working a few minutes early, get to the church around 4, and not miss too much. Naturally I was in a conference call from 3 to 4 p.m., forcing me to interrupt a roomful of people at 3:55 at stammer “uh, I have to go now, talk to you all later.” If there is a way to be subtle when you’re on speakerphone, I haven’t found it.

Wrong! The whole event involved me rushing frantically from one room to another (sometimes hurrying behind the very accommodating nun who was trying to run the meeting), toting Opie on my hip and trying to make sure he didn’t bite the eraser off the pencil he was chewing. I couldn’t decide whether the eraser or the point was the lesser of the two evils. Worse, the meeting concluded with a prayer service in the church, which I was not at all expecting (the kids’ clothes were dirty, Jo’s hair was tangled from her nap, I had on jeans ... and then there was the toddler who had no interest in sitting quietly on my lap listening to the priest). Jo insisted on sitting in the second row (I wasn’t about to argue the point with her in the middle of the aisle, since we were the VERY LAST people to enter the room) and of course had to use the bathroom halfway through the thankfully, fairly brief service.

Tuesday: Urgent errand 1 (after school): Drive to neighboring town to buy tap shoes, size teeny, because no local stores have them in the proper size; 1,000-mile trip to friend’s house to try on hand-me-downs proved fruitless.

Urgent errand 2 (lunchtime): Mommy needs a bikini wax because Opie starts swimming lessons Saturday. Why am I always getting bikini waxes for stuff like kids’ swimming lessons and birthday parties, instead of trips to Fiji or a secret, highly lucrative career in stretchmark fetish films?

Wednesday: One of Jo’s friends is having a party. It’s actually a toy shopping party. Did someone say soccer mom? Since moving to Mayberry I can’t escape the shopping parties… make-up, purses, kitchen utensils, books, clothing… no *wink wink* pajama parties yet, though.

Thursday: Dance class! Jo can’t wait to twirl and tap. Parents are only allowed to observe on the first day, so after this week Opie and I will spend the class time at a nearby playground, at least until it gets too cold and snowy. Like around October 1.

Friday: Jo slept until 8:45 a.m. Maybe I should run her this ragged every week.

If this sneak preview is anything like what the elementary school years will be like (and I think it is), I’m glad I have a few more years to get ready. Seriously... I'm pretty scared.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Love Thursday: Brother from another mother

For reasons that aren’t mine to share here, and that aren’t necessarily my business, and that I don’t even completely know anyway, I have three half-siblings that I never knew. My dad and their mother divorced when they were very young, well before I was born. Although my dad supported them financially, he was never part of their life.

I’ve always known this—I don’t remember when I first learned it—but it was rarely discussed. So of course I asked myself What are they like? and Do they wonder about me? and Will we ever meet? It was baffling because I believed then, and still do, that my dad was an excellent father. How could he have agreed to something like this? What kind of circumstances led to such an awful result? I’ve never wanted to ask for an explanation—never want to make him face those days again, or to feel like I was questioning his love for me or them.

The youngest of the three, my brother C., stayed close to my grandmother and uncle. A few years ago he contacted my father. He was going through a divorce and looking, I guess, for support and advice as he went through the same trauma that had torn his own family apart when he was only a baby. They gingerly began reconstructing a relationship, first via e-mail, then phone calls, and finally a real visit. My dad met the son he hadn’t seen for 40 years and the four grandchildren he’d never known.

Then this summer, a series of lucky coincidences separately brought my brother, sister, and me (my full siblings, the ones I’ve been stuck with all along) to the Western town where C. now lives. We each had the chance to finally meet him.

We loved him. We loved his girlfriend. We loved his kids. Once, twice, three times, they welcomed us—in my case, my whole family, plus an additional family of four!—with easy, effortless hospitality and affection. The kids called my brother “the brother from another mother” of the title. They called my sister “Half-Aunt Susan.” (Unfortunately, that’s where their creativity ended and I didn’t get a cool name.) C. is fun, smart, successful, and clearly a great dad. His girlfriend, S., has developed an amazing relationship with C.’s children. The kids, who range in age from barely 6 to 15, are universally good-natured, clever, and well behaved. Which I honestly find incredible in a group that includes two teenagers, not to mention the difficult divorce they’ve been dealing with, if you’ll excuse my grammar.

So I love my new big brother. I’m sad that I won’t see him and my nieces and nephews often. But I’m doing my best to celebrate the gift of reconnection and forgiveness we’ve all been granted.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Jo and Tacy Show

This picture was taken no more than 20 minutes after we arrived chez mothergoosemouse (after 11 p.m.). And it pretty much sums up the weekend. The girls, who hadn't seen each other in over two years, picked up right where they left off and had a wonderful time. The moms and dads did too. And the toddlers beat each other up and generally tried to be destructive. Fun for all!

Also, Julie, sorry about the puddle I left on your carpet. It's from my heart melting and oozing onto the floor when Tacy looked at Jo snoring next to her and whispered, "My best friend is still sleeping."

More pictures over at MGM.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'll never forget, and I don't want to

Everyone has a September 11 story. Mine isn’t, by any stretch, as dramatic or tragic as so many others. I didn’t lose anyone dear to me or suffer physically that day. But I did witness it, some of it without the filter of a television screen.

Everyone has a September 11 story. This is mine.

That morning, I took the bus into the city. The route hugged the cliff above the Hudson River on the New Jersey side. I could watch the skyline for several blocks. The sky was a gorgeous, cloudless blue. No smoke or fear marred it yet.

I descended underground, first through the Lincoln Tunnel and then down through the bus terminal to the subway station. I overheard someone say something about a plane and the World Trade Center. Like everyone else, I figured it was a Cessna that had gotten terribly off course. I got onto the subway like it was the ordinary Tuesday it had started out to be.

Climbing up into the light at Houston and Broadway, I smelled the smoke immediately. Like so many others around me, I stood gaping at the Trade Center buildings, both now gashed and spilling smoke.

My office was on the 10th floor with huge, south-facing windows--an old cast-iron building, classic SoHo. I shared the space with just five or six co-workers; most of the rest of our group worked a floor below us. For a half-hour, maybe more, we stared out the big windows at the scene just blocks from us. Phone service was already spotty, but a few friends e-mailed to check on me. I'm fine, I said. I'm far enough away.

Suddenly the first tower started to sway, then tumbled and was gone. All of us screamed and burst into tears. One of the men fell to his knees and sobbed. I'd never seen anyone do that before. No one said anything for several minutes, as our shoulders shook and tears fell onto the industrial carpet.

Seeking the comfort of a larger group, we soon went to the ninth floor, with the rest of our department. Most of us gathered in a conference room and started watching the news. When the second tower fell, a pregnant woman fainted. I was pregnant, too; 11 weeks. No one knew yet. My morning sickness was still so bad that I crunched my way through a baggie full of dry cereal while watching CNN in that conference room--the only way I could get through a day, or even an hour, was to eat nonstop. I'm sure no one noticed, but it felt horribly disrespectful, as if I thought I was at the movies with a tub of buttered popcorn.

The rest of the day passed in a haze of confusion and phone calls. On that day and the next few, I must have spoken to almost every friend and relative I had. We all felt an urgent need to connect, to reassure each other that we were okay. I stayed in the office for several hours, because our company recommended we do so for our safety. Anyway, there was very little transportation available; the subways had been shut down, busses were packed to the gills, bridges and tunnels were closed. My only chance of getting home to New Jersey was to walk 50 blocks north to the ferry terminal and try to catch a boat.

Instead, I went to my friend Kara's apartment, in Stuyvesant Town near 14th street, 20 minutes away. I walked alongside people who had been so close to ground zero that their clothes and faces were covered with ash. I slept on Kara's couch and in the morning walked a few more blocks north to my obstetrician's office for a check-up. As I walked, dozens of garbage trucks streamed southward, ready to begin clearing the debris. There were few fire engines or ambulances. As we'd learn later, it was too late--almost no survivors, or even intact bodies, were found after the towers fell. The city was papered with photographs of the missing and pleas from their families, but they were all gone.

I didn't go to work that Wednesday or Thursday. Our offices were in the part of the city that was shut down to all but emergency traffic. We came back in on Friday, but no one did any work--and not just because all our phones and computers were dead.

In the weeks that followed, I saw and smelled the acrid smoke every time I arrived in the city in the morning. I had nightmares about terrible things happening to my dog (I believe she represented my unborn baby girl). I cried when I passed a firehouse in mourning--they all were.

To this day, I haven't been back to ground zero. It's hard for me to believe that it's a tourist destination. I know that the vast majority of those who visit do so with awe and reverence, but I don't think I could bear to see t-shirt vendors and people snapping pictures of their friends, arm in arm in front of the hole.

After the attacks, the New York Times published brief tributes to each victim. For months these profiles appeared in the paper--at first several pages of them every day, then fewer and fewer until each life lost had been somehow remembered. Five years on, the blogosphere has made a similar effort. I'm sorry that I don't have my own tribute to post (I can't explain what held me back from doing so) but I urge you to read others as you are able. It's one way to feel we've given this day the respect it deserves.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Smell ya later

I'll be away for a few days laughing at Tacy's pronouncements and CJ's cuteness. In the interim, savor this: My friend Julie (a different Julie) has written the world's first scratch-n-sniff book for adults. If you need an autographed copy, I could hook you up.

Backstage with Beth and Trina

P.S. This morning Opie managed to pee into the dollhouse. The dining room rug was a total loss. The Doll family has been living there for nearly 30 years and has been through a lot, but I'm afraid this may be the last straw for them (although they have been reunited with their cat).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

When toddlers attack

house trashed by toddler
JO'S ROOM (AP) -- The Doll family is still reeling from an attack Tuesday that left their house in shambles and their children terrified.

"It was a giant... BABY," said Mrs. Doll, still shaken up from the incident, in which her foot was accidentally severed (it was later reattached by orthopedic surgeon Dr. MayberryMom, who used state-of-the-art Scotch tape to perform the operation). "We were just sitting there watching our cowboys-n-Indians show (I mean that's all we ever watch) when all of a sudden, the thing started grabbing all our stuff and just tossing it everywhere," said Mr. Doll.

"It's bad enough that the only bathroom in the house is on the third floor, and there are no stairs to get up there," said Mrs. Doll. "But now the toilet's in a completely different room and has been broken in half."

The family noted with relief that most of the rest of their possessions remain intact, although they are strewn throughout the house. However, the refrigerator has been completely emptied and the family cat has not been seen since the incident.

Monday, September 04, 2006

And it was still cheaper than an actual African safari

let us in!
Admission: $26.25 (humans); $8 (vehicle)

aka the sherpa
Pack mule rental: $8

gorillas love bananas
Food/beverage (not counting banana brought from home): $22.50

look out!
Real(ly cool fake) dinosaurs: $7.50
Real(ly dumb) molten plastic dinosaur souvenir: $1

king of the beasts
Sea lion show (no photography; substitute lion shown): $6 admission; $4.33 for 2-pack of new pacifiers to replace one lost under bleachers

riding the train
Mommy! Train! Mommy!! Train!! Mommy!!! TRAIN!!!: $4

fast asleep
Two kids dreaming of the animal kingdom: I think you know the punch line

Friday, September 01, 2006

And She Shall Have Her Ven-ge-ance

Originally posted at Bethiclaus as part of the Blog Exchange; the assignment was to write a short story based on one of these prompts from McSweeney's.

Georgia looked again at the precise stack of white paper, the one that had been sitting on a corner of her desk for more than three weeks. Every time her eyes met the accusing pile, her stomach tightened a tiny bit more. Like in the Grinch, when you see his heart shrinking to two sizes too small.

Just read it. Just the first few chapters.

She’d have to, of course. There was no getting around it, no allowing it to burrow under all the other manuscripts in her office. No opening, somehow, the hermetically sealed window and letting each page float gracefully down to the street.

I can’t. I can’t stand it.

Val poked her head in the door. “Ready to go? I’ll walk you to the subway.”

“I can’t. I have to read this.”


“Yeah. Ruth wants a report on everything with a February pub date by tomorrow. This is the last one.”

‘Cause it’s gonna suck. Or worse, it might actually be good. Then I’ll really fucking lose it.

“Shit. Well, see you tomorrow then.”

After she waved goodbye to Val, Georgia removed the big blue rubber band from the manuscript and centered the pile on her desk. She left an empty space to the left where she would place the pages she’d read, face down. She rooted around for a good pen. She found a pad of sticky notes that were neither too big nor too small. She checked her email again, skimming quickly past Ruth’s reminder. She went to the ladies’ room and the water cooler.
For god’s sake. You are a grown-up and a professional. Forget about who wrote it and just read it.

Deep inside her bag, her phone buzzed. Nick.

“Hi…. No, still at work… awhile, I have a manuscript to read… no, I can’t. I really have to finish this tonight.”

Wish I could tell him. I hate this.

“OK, talk to you later. Uh huh.”

She switched off the ringer on the phone and tucked it away.

If we feature this—if I have to actually write something about this cretin for publication—I will officially freak out.

She squared her shoulders and flipped over the cover letter, the title page, the page that said “Acknowledgments TK.”

Yeah, acknowledge this, asshole.

Did I actually just think that? This moron has driven me to complete cliché.

Page 1 stared her in the face. After she read the first sentence, she smiled. A tiny twist of the lip, at first. Then she laughed, loud and long.

“Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.”

The smell of the house just seems off

Please welcome guest poster Bethiclaus, who's visiting as part of the September Blog Exchange; you can read my post there today. Our mission: Choose one of these completely wack prompts from McSweeney's and write an entry inspired by it. To read all of this month's participating entries, visit the blogroll. To participate next month, email Kristen at kmei26 at yahoo dot com.

The smell of the house just seems off
Another day. I love this place. Look there's my food. And my water. I'll have a little now, go outside and then come back for more later. This is the life. I know exactly what lies ahead. Another great day.

Mmm…this food is great! Just like yesterday. Who knew one could get such great service in her own home!

Hmmm…Something seems a little strange. I just feel…wrong.

Back and forth. Back and forth. I'd like to stop but I can't ever stop myself from following.

Oh good. That's over. I'll just take a quick nap.

* * * * *

What was that? Ack! I'm outta here!

* * * * *

The smell of the house just seems off. I've been hanging out outside for a couple of hours now because I was too nervous. It's been so noisy in there and I kept having to try to avoid feet walking back and forth. I'm going to brave the house anyway.

There's that cat sleeping on the windowsill. Cats aren't ever bothered by anything. How can he sleep through this? Doesn't he smell the change in the air?

It's still so loud. Maybe I'll go back outside. Wait! What's this? It's a shoe! Oooh, look at that heel. I think I might have to have a little nibble. It smells funny. I don't really recognize that smell. I wonder what that is. Oh well. It'll take more than a strange odor to stop me.

* * * * *

That was a tasty treat. I better get out of here before anyone notices what I've done. I'll just run upstairs. Hm. What are these? They're pictures of humans. I recognize some of them. But some of them are unfamiliar. All these pictures are torn up. The cat must have made this mess. Surely I'll be blamed for it later. I always get in trouble for everything.

Whoa, what just happened? I hate when the door slams!

* * * *

It sure is quiet in here now. The cat is still asleep! What's wrong with him?!?

Luggage? No! I hate luggage! I'm going to be left alone with the cat?!? He beats me up when we're alone! I hate luggage! I will whine to express my concern!

I knew whining would work! Cuddling is the best! I love being picked up! Yes! Rub my belly! But please, stop dripping on me!

My kennel? But I don't want to go in there? What's happening? Where are we going? I DON'T LIKE CHANGE!

Bethiclaus is a graduate school dropout who now bides her time writing about her beautiful daughter and dreaming of higher education.