Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mephistopheles Motors, Part II

In the first place, you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.
- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

The first car I ever owned was a dark blue Chevy Nova that my sister had sitting in her driveway. “If you can make it run, you can have it,” she told me. Against all odds, it eventually moved from her driveway and, for a full two months, took me back and forth to work as a hostess at a seafood restaurant where I held my breath in the smoking section and exaggerated the estimated wait time by at least an hour so the customers would just go away. The radio and the speedometer were broken, the left rear tire deflated regularly, and the crack in the windshield only impeded my vision if I turned a sharp right. It let me know I’d gone too far the day I attempted to drive it from Long Island, New York to south Jersey. It wasn’t about drama, this car, it had just done its time and that was that. I stopped to get gas in Toms River and it never started again. My Nova was like sex without any emotional strings attached. When it was over, everyone just walked away, having gotten what they wanted, no hard feelings. A decade would go by before I owned another car.

Upon finishing my graduate program, I landed a job 20 miles away and needed a car. It just so happened that a classmate of mine was selling one. It was a 1989 Dodge. Blue like my Nova, old, like my Nova, but boxy and tough. It had been passed down through many a student. Mike and I went to my friend’s house to close the deal. “We’ve made a decision,” Masako told me as we took a seat on their couch. “We want to charge you $100 less than we told you originally.” “Um….Okay?...” I cocked my head, perplexed. “Because it’s an old car,” Shuji continued for his wife, “and…” He waved his hands in a way that showed me it wasn’t up for further discussion. Next, we were drinking tea. And soon, the “Shuji-mobile” and I were on the road.

The Shuji-mobile and I drove through the fields picked of lettuce, planted with brussel sprouts to teach English. Two years later, one week after I quit my job, the Shuji-mobile met its end. Having reached the end of its duty, it went out like a true hero – full tank of gas, smoke billowing from the engine. Mike was driving. I was elsewhere. It knew I wouldn’t have had the heart to watch. We donated it to the fire station, where they used it to train people on the jaws of life. Honorable life; honorable death.

Five days have gone by since Chris and his sales manager wasted my time at Mephistopheles Motors. I accidentally left my registration at the dealership before I calmly shook Chris’ hand and marched out the door to my waiting, beeping Jetta. In that time, we had gained new energy. Even the baby was feeling better. We devised a new offer. We had to go back – we had the excuse of retrieving the registration. We bring the checkbook. I’m gonna get me a orange car.

We drive halfway there before we realize we don’t have the title to the Jetta. We turn around. Get the title. When we start out a second time, I have just the slightest bit of nostalgia for the Jetta. “Maybe…” I begin wistful. “Maybe the Jetta is just…” Right on cue the beeping and flashing start. “exactly the piece of shit I thought it was!” I finish.

I don’t see the orange Mazda when we pull into the lot. Chris spots me and approaches with my registration. “Did you sell the car?” I ask trying to sound nonchalant. “We wholesaled it. The day after you looked at it.” “What does that mean?” “We gave it to a wholesaler” he offers helpfully. “It’s gone. We got rid of it.”

“They wholesaled it.” I parrot to Mike back in the Jetta. “I think that means they figured out they couldn’t sell it for what they wanted and they took a loss on it instead of selling it to me. Whaddawedo?”

“I guess we go to the Mazda dealer,” says my practical husband.

“Okay.” I am deflated. It’s a beautiful, sunny Sunday. We have plans later.

Even before we can park at the Mazda dealership, we see a face we recognize among the salespeople stationed out front. We know Patrick from other venues, not well, but enough. Maybe this won’t be so unpleasant after all.

I tell Patrick exactly what I want. I tell him Mike researched it and there is an orange one about two hours north of here. Get it for me. He agrees, but must show me the BEST deal on the lot first. I MUST drive this stupid sedan. I’ll love it. It’s a better car; a better deal; it’s PERFECT for me. I whine and drag my feet over to the stupid Subaru. All wheel drive. Yawn. “We want a hatchback.” Yeah, but. “We want better gas mileage.” Yeah, but. “Does it come in orange?” Of course not. I drive the stupid sedan and another used hatchback that’s appealing but for it’s souped up exhaust system, it’s bumpers out o’ da hood, and it’s gear shift that aggravates my bad wrist. I’ve wasted enough time; get me my orange car.

Richie is the finance guy. Richie has way too much energy. Richie is 10 feet away in the office next to us. Patrick is his courier. We remain at Patrick’s desk while various versions of the deal arrive from around the corner scribbled on paper complete with upbeat notes from Richie like “We want your business!” which Patrick reads out loud for our benefit. After negotiating half a dozen times back and forth with this mysterious man in the next office, close enough I could have spit on him (and I thought about it), the paper comes back again with “It’s a deal!” written across the top in black marker and a smiley face drawn on it. “It’s a deal!” Patrick reads out. I add horns, a tail, and a pitchfork to the face in blue ballpoint and slide the paper back across the table to Patrick. We move on to Jim, the paperwork guy. While I (literally) attempt to read the fine print and sign my name 100 times, Jim talks in a steady monotone about everything I care nothing about. More than once, I ask Jim to stop talking.

This is more money than I’ve ever spent on anything in my life. More money than I ever expected to spend on anything in my life. Money that could be doing so many other things. I am close to tears. I’m experiencing something like vertigo. I try to tell myself I deserve a new car, but it doesn’t hold up. No one “deserves” a six-CD changer. People deserve enough to eat and a safe place to sleep. People deserve respect and love. No one “deserves” an orange car.

Four long hours have passed since we left home in the Jetta. I haven’t felt this tired since Isaac was born. We trash our day’s plans and head home for a family nap.

The next day, Monday, Patrick calls to tell me my car is here. He sounds much more excited than I could ever be about a car. Nonetheless, I feel ever so slightly proud when he mentions they have it sitting in the showroom with a sign on it that reads “Sorry! This one is sold.” When we go to pick it up after Mike gets home, it’s already dark. As we approach the car I see that it is in no way orange. “This isn’t my car,” I tell them. “This car is red.” “An orangey-red,” Patrick blurts. “They don’t make the orange color you saw in the ’05 anymore.” Now he tells me? Never content to leave any situation without making a fool of myself, instead of walking away from what is obviously not an orange car, I choose to allow him to drive it out, under the lights to show me more closely how my red car is really orange.

It’s a slow night and a gaggle of employees are outside hanging around hoping for a bite. “Great color!” they croon when they see my car. “Wow!” They’ve been coached, I think bitterly. The bloody emperor is naked. The baby is tired; we are all tired. I am unsettled, but leave more or less convinced that while it isn’t the orange of the orange Mazda I test drove last week, it is perhaps an updated version, more in the “burnt sienna” or “rust metallic” family.

In the morning, I go out to look at the car I bought in daylight. I return to the house fuming. “That car is red. Red. Not orange. Not even a little orange. Red.”

“Wait til the sun comes out more,” Mike suggests. I want to kill him with my bare hands and put the body in the trunk of my red car.

It’s not quite 7:30am, but for some reason that I’d rather not ponder, someone actually answers the phone at the Mazda dealership. “I’d like to leave a message for Patrick,” I say in my calmest, sweetest cadence. There is rummaging. Paper. Pen. “Okay, go ahead,” says the voice. “This is Kitty and the message is: My car is red.” “…car…is…red. Got it.” “Thank you,” I tell him. “You bet.”

Two hours go by. Isaac takes a nap. I find myself with time enough to dwell on how I felt cheated. Patrick calls. “My car is red, Patrick. And you knew it was red.” “I’m a little color blind,” he starts. We wrangle about for a while, each defensive and unsatisfied, he with a commission on the line, me with god knows what. “What do you want?” he asks me finally. “What color do you want?” “Orange.” “It doesn’t come in orange anymore. It doesn’t come in pink either,” he jabs. “Sell many cars mocking people?” I inquire.

Two days go by in which I cry often out of frustration, exhaustion, and anger, then rebuke myself severely for getting so wrapped up over a car, knowing all the while it is not about the car. I decide I can’t afford to spend more precious life moments car shopping and decide to keep some version of the Mazda. I think about getting a blue one. Patrick offers me all-weather floor mats if I keep the car I have – “an 80 dollar value!” He offers me another car wash. I could give a rat’s ass about either of the above, but finally, feeling broken and tired, tell him I’ll keep the red car he insists on referring to as “copper.” He thinks he has won and tells me where to find my floor mats if he’s not there when I come to get them. In my people-pleasing voice, I thank him. We hang up.

Isaac can sort of crawl now. Lots of babies younger than he is have far surpassed him, but my son does a wounded soldier, commando drag that gets him around. He finds all kinds of things I don’t this way – strands of hair he picks up and presents me with (his manual dexterity is quite impressive), the phone I’ve tried to hide away behind everything in the world. Apparently, he has the right vantage point for finding the tiniest things, the details, and as a poet, I tend to believe that details are what matter. But for the rest of us, we can all go home now, stop rubbernecking. There’s nothing to see here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

crazy talk

I’ve made a decision. I’m going to treat people to a dose of themselves. I’m going to go out of my way to say things like “You had your baby in a HOSPITAL?? Are you CRAZY??!” and “What?!? You mean to tell me your baby sleeps through the night?! At THIS age?! That’s just not normal!”

What if. What if the norms were shifted just a bit off center. It wouldn’t take much. Who decides what to measure against? Well, what if I took on that decision. Then what would our conversations sound like? Who’d be crazy then?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mephistopheles Motors, Part I

The devil owns a car dealership.

Hell is not fire and pitchforks. Clearly, it is a car lot – a mangled mess of interest rates, credit checks, sticker shock, and hubcaps. I am in hell.

While my baby struggles with a fever at home with his dad, I have packed up my soul and headed out in search of semi-reliable transportation. I have my eye on a slightly used Mazda 3 hatchback 5-speed in orange. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I care what color my car is. I don’t tell them this at the dealership. I carefully avoid including note of the color when I tell them which car I am interested in, but I’m sure they can read it in my eyes. I begin to see that the open-toed sandals showing off my orange toenails were a bad choice. I reassure myself that men don’t notice these things, look them in the eye and ask about the "Mazda with standard transmission." If they hear me use big, manly words like "transmission," hear me bypass the lay term of "stick shift," will I gain enough respect to be taken seriously?

Although I didn’t plan it, I had begun this dangerous adventure earlier in the day. A friend and I have been trying out a baby exchange. Once a week, her little boy comes over our house for an hour while mom takes a breather or runs some errands; and once a week, I leave Isaac with her. We pretend they will play together, making incredible advances in their development, but at this age they mostly drool on each other until they discover mommy missing, then cry until she returns. It was Isaac’s turn to cry.

I left him with a kiss and headed out to look at some apartments for rent. After driving by the first place, my faithful (read: piss-poor piece of shit) Jetta began beeping loudly at me. I noted the flashing oilcan on the dashboard and pulled into the drugstore. Hey, I needed diapers anyway. Since the Jetta has a history of oil leaks and other oil issues, I didn’t worry myself that I couldn’t find a cloth or paper towel to wipe the dipstick and check the oil level properly. I just poured in my two quarts and headed out again, determined to make a car decision soon. A quarter mile down the road, the beeping resumed. Maybe it was just hot and needed to settle down. On I drove. Beep Beep. Flash Flash. Not far down the road, I could see the giant sign for the lot where the orange Mazda we’d been sniffing around the day before lived. Reminded of my husband’s story of how his old truck died for good in the driveway of the Honda dealership, I took my cue and decided car shopping might trump apartment hunting for now. I pulled into the dealership and shut off the motor before anyone could detect where the beeping sound was coming from. I met someone named Chris and got my credit check started. I’d be back that evening.

So here I am. Driving around making small talk with Chris, my escort into Hell. He is working me, hard. I hear over and over again about his dogs, about how he hates sales pitches too. About how many hours he works. Why do people wear these things like a badge? Tell me all about how they come in on their day off? Are we giving out medals for being stupid these days? I remember reading an article some time ago about a man who had been killed. The writer had interviewed his boss from the grocery store where he’d worked. This man, who had friends, family, dreams was remembered as a "hard worker" who was "always willing to stay late or come in early." No wonder we cannot save the world.

"So, did your husband say if you liked it you could have it?" Chris asks me. So much for using the word "transmission." Though I am distracted thinking about Chris’ story of how just yesterday he told his wife he’d be "home when he was home" and finally closed his last deal at 10:00pm, I manage to focus long enough to see that I do like the car.

As much as I like any car, that is. On the phone with another dealer recently, I was just trying to find out if they had what I wanted to test drive. Jesse, my bud on the other end of the line, was working himself into an orgasmic lather telling me about some silver Pontiac Vibe with GPS tracking. "Look," I interrupted, "I hate cars, so let’s move on." "You told the car salesman you hate cars?" My husband shakes his head at me and shovels a spoonful of spinach into the baby’s waiting mouth. "Yeah, so?" I demand of him. And then, turning to Isaac, "Mommy hates cars, Little Guy! Yes, she does; yes, she does. Cars suckety suck suck, don’t they, Sweetie?" Isaac lets out a happy scream and spreads the green puree around his face.

It’s come to this. I am sitting at Chris’ desk, staring at a picture of his cocker spaniels, waiting. I wait. And I wait. And, I wait. It’s a bit like a police interrogation room – no stimuli to speak of, bright lights, mind games. Chris breezes back to tell me they almost have it – the deal. I wait some more. This must be what it feels like to be his wife. I start to read the email that is printed out and hanging next to the dogs’ photo. The subject line is "Affirmations." The body of the email includes a list of "positive" thoughts for the car salesman in your life, things like "I can sell anyone, anytime!" "Think win!!!!" and my favorite: "Fear Eroads (sic) Courage."

Another tidbit to live by, "I create positive relationships where everybody wins" is crossed out. When Chris returns again to check on me - the jackal to the carnage – I am chuckling merrily and pointing. "Whatsa matter?" I ask him. "You’re opting out of positive relationships, are you?" "No! No!" he tells me, seeming in a hurry to right my impression, "I didn’t do that. Someone else did." "You don’t have to pretend for me," I jibe him. "It’s all right there. I can read the writing on the cubicle wall." "No, no!" he repeats. "See these check marks next to each one? These are mine." He sounds so concerned. So sincere. In the back of my throat I taste something like pity. I decide to drop the joking.

This is just one example of the creepy, culty feeling I get over my time at Mephistopheles Motors. Chris tells me all about the trainings they get to go to on Fridays. How the boss, who, he reports proudly, asked him personally to take this particular job, pays for everyone to go, "even the receptionists." The latest training session was about balancing your personal and professional lives.

I am in awe of just how spot on our cultural caricatures of car salesmen are, how I can’t think of a more morally bereft and spiritually bankrupt profession.

When the numbers finally make it to paper, they begin with the original sticker price and end with a 14% interest rate for financing. If my joking hadn’t fallen away before… I’ll spare you the details and just tell you that Chris handed me over to his sales manager, who played bad cop, didn’t talk about his dogs, and after a certain amount of debate, I left in my beeping Jetta, my soul safe for another day.

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be car salesmen.

Friday, November 18, 2005


I rush out of the house trying not to be late since they had to do the proverbial "squeeze us in" move. I have barely managed to get dressed; showers are for sissies; and let’s not talk about my hair.

The doctor’s assistant, who also happens to be his wife and at least ten years his junior, is tall and lithe, wears clothes that flow but never hang. She greets us smiling. Her hair is graceful on her shoulders and her figure - that of a woman’s half her age. She always fusses over Isaac, plays peek-a-boo, makes him grin, which is why I forgive her for being beautiful.

You think you know what kind of parent you’ll be. The kind that shrugs and says in a dispassionate voice, "All kids get sick." The kind that wants the fever to "do its job" and not be stymied by things like medicine. Then your baby – the one you tend to every day, the same one that left your body in a rush of blood and cord just months ago, that does that funny thing with his tongue when you feed him the first bite of anything, that is learning to wave bye-bye – leans against you solemn and lethargic, whimpers in the carseat he despises without the energy to fight off the five-point harness, wakes screaming in the night burning hot with fever, and see, see what you’ll do, how early you’ll have the doctor paged, which medicine you’ll reach for.

Even these times arrive with their own brand of comedy. Mike reads the thermometer to me. "100.8"

"108!??!" I shriek. "Call the doctor! Call the doctor!"

In the struggle to decide whether to make the doctor’s appointment, I have waited long enough that things are apparently on the upswing. Isaac bangs on the doctor’s desk with the flat of his palms and babbles a steady stream, seemingly reading him the riot act for poking around in his ears earlier. I leave with a baby that is still red-rimmed around the eyes, but the assistant’s black and red flowered skirt flares jauntily as she wishes us a good day and turns away down the hallway, and I’m pretty sure things will be all right.

Monday, November 14, 2005

snacking between meals

Everyone I talk to in my life that knows I write keeps asking me if I’ve been able to get back to writing since the baby. I tell them yes, a little. I have a regular sitter now and…blahblahblah…trying to create a schedule…yammer yammer... And then I tell them even when I don’t get to anything else, I am keeping up with my blog…they nod vacantly…which I’ve had since I was pregnant…they add in an idle "Oh."…I try to write in it as regularly as I can. … (silence)…about my experiences…(become distracted by street noise) …I mention that I’m trying to use some of the pieces I started on the blog and revise them to submit to various mama publications … "So, how’s Mike doing?" they want to know. …

I find it fascinating that all these people are so supportive of my passion, but none of them would really go so far as to engage me in further conversation about what I tell them I am writing or, I know it’s nuts, actually READ what I write.

Am I to assume that blogging is something like potato chips? It’s kinda food, but it doesn’t count as lunch.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Thanksgiving weekend five years ago I got a call from the SPCA to please take in a mama cat and her kittens as fosters. That was my Zap Mama, already showing us how she liked to be "different" – skipping the usual kitten season and instead getting knocked up over the fall and giving birth in the coldest time of the year.

We tried not to name the kittens, so as not to get too attached. A laughable concept. We identified them by their physical appearances – Grey Baby, Stripey, and Tuxedo Baby. Essentially, we named them. By the time they were two weeks old, Zap couldn’t lift them anymore, being – at the time – so tiny herself. So she sat back, playing nagging mother, while her children ran wild through our bedroom. Stripey was the only female and smart, smart, smart. She was the first to learn to do everything, taunting her brothers from her perch atop the bookcase, or racing through the blinds slalom-style. Cute as could be, but not the brightest bulbs, Grey and Tuxedo spent their time eating each other’s ears and falling off the bed. Stripey won her fans over with her cunning and then added a dash of darling. She climbed anyone and anything until, exhausted, she curled into the crook of my arm and slept. She’d need a special place to grow up.

The kittens were ready to be adopted in January. There were no other kittens to be had at that time of year. Everyone wanted these little fur balls. Being the spaz that I am, I couldn’t just return them to the SPCA to be adopted by whomever happened in. No, I advertised my little ones and carefully interviewed perspective families. Tuxedo Baby was adopted by a young couple who gushed over him in Polish. Grey Baby went to a socially awkward computer geek who shared his kitten’s startled look and seemed to be in need of the company. A perfect fit. And Stripey. She was the pick of a family with two teenagers and an incumbent housecat. I weighed the situation. Were they the right ones for our girl? After spending a long time with the kittens (with Zap cowering under the bed waiting for the intruders to leave), the mom announced it was time to go. The son, about 17 I’d guess, was holding Stripey in his palm. On hearing his mother’s command, the boy kissed the top of the kitten’s head and placed her gently down. "Did you see that?" I whispered to Mike as we ushered them out. "Yeah, I saw it." "I think they should get Stripey," I told him. "Yeah, I think they’re okay."

There is an automaticity in affection that you can’t fake. There is a sincerity in certain gestures that are tell tale. One of the most loving things I have experienced since having a baby is the genuine affection he is sometimes shown by people unrelated to us. I don’t mean the passers-by who tell me they like his hat. I mean the parent, his own child inches from him, who reaches out and touches Isaac’s head, sweetly, contemplatively, for no good reason.

Right now, my bathroom smells like jasmine from the back fence. My kitchen smells like guava from the farmer’s market. But the clearest sign of sweetness in my life is the memory of that hand, smoothing my baby’s hair.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

the gift

So, I’ve been trying to think about motherhood as a form within which I need to write, like a sonnet or a slam poem. There are parameters, and, as some of you I’m sure are aware, structure can be freeing. My son affords me the opportunity to stretch my talents within an established framework. For example, I get to write in very small increments of time. I must write with little sleep under constant pressure of interruption. Babies, at least mine, don’t generally require iambic pentameter. According to Isaac, the rhyme scheme would be something to the tune of "Ba, ba, ba, Ma, ma, ma, mum!" (And for the record, every syllable is stressed).

Here’s my reality check: Had I never gotten pregnant and decided to have a baby, chances are good that I still would not have written the Great American Novel by now. So, Baby is not holding me back so much as he is propelling me forward, with all the grace of a human canon ball act perhaps, but forward nonetheless. And still I am held to this form, lest my trajectory be thought of as completely aimless.

Of course, on the average day, it can feel like the Universe approached me as I stood at the starting line of the obstacle course and presented me with a potato sack that She instructed me to put on, then walked away with her shoulders shaking from laughter. But at other times, I think what She handed to me was something very different. In my daydream, I can’t quite make out what’s in the tiny box, but from all accounts, it appears to be a gift.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

my expertise

Some days – especially with the teething – the only way Isaac gets a decent nap is on our walks in his carrier. However, he’s not the itty-bitty baby that sleeps through anything anymore. There are many obstacles (read: people) in the way of Iz staying asleep.

My first problem here is that this is Touristville. If you live in a town where the stores have signs in their front windows enthusiastically advertising the fact that they sell batteries, you live in a tourist area. The rec trail is full of laughing or bickering families riding those rented bike surreys, all ready to spring my boy awake from his midday snooze. It is also filled with couples dying to stop someone and ask him or her to take their picture. More times than not, that someone seems to be me. And there is any number of folks in a day who need directions to places that range from the beach to the drycleaner.

But my very favorite episode so far of someone unthinkingly approaching the woman with the sleeping child was the old lady walking her dog who stopped me to help her get a tissue out of her pocket. "Excuse me!" she said, the old lady tremble in her voice raised to a pitch that made Isaac stir and frown, though his eyes stayed closed. Her small dog jumped up, reaching my knee and bumping Isaac’s feet in his excitement.

I may have wanted to pantomime my dismay, to tell her I couldn’t do it, that if he woke up I’d want to die, that this half hour was the peace I had been waiting for since 5 am. But I smiled, imagined arthritis, whispered "Sure." I reached into her windbreaker to retrieve the Kleenex she’d asked for. Afterwards, she was ever-so grateful. Only then did she reveal to me that she’d needed my assistance because she’d managed to dip her fingers in dog poop, and so couldn’t reach in herself.

I guess I must have looked like someone who knew about poop.

Too cool for Mommy n Me.

Too cute for Mommy n Me.

we're breaking up

I’m reminded through motherhood just how many people find it virtually impossible to do anything alone – including having a baby. I’m done with the mommy cliques. I’m done with the little circles of women too insecure to sit across the room from their friends, who wouldn’t dare bring their babes to mommy n me class in the onesie with the poop stains – only the latest matching, overpriced outfit, who, actually print and wear tee shirts that read "Olivia’s Mommy", who are free of dark rings under their eyes because of the mercy of grandparents in close geographic proximity or lots of make up they somehow have time to put on. Have you noticed I haven’t even really blogged about the mommy n me class? It’s not even material.

"Does anyone have any questions?"
As a matter of fact…
Why aren’t women treated like the goddesses they are?
How is it that doing the dishes has come to take precedent over finding time to maintain your relationship?
Why does thinking about immunizing my baby feel like closing my eyes and crossing my fingers?

My "classmates" clap hands over budding "toofies" and confess to each other how they "don’t want to miss a thing!"

Do I have to say it again? I love my baby. However, early motherhood to me is nothing less than an insane onslaught of exhaustion and emotion punctuated by flights away from my baby toward chocolate. When I can’t get back to sleep at night, I create acronyms of imaginary disgruntled mom’s organizations, like BOOBS: Bothered by the Oodles of Outrageous Bullshit in Society. I don’t fit in. (BTW, Brain, Child magazine’s current issue has a feature on the why/when/if of a mommy’s "revolution".)

We’re breaking up. No more mommy n me. Isaac and I will spend Mondays at the park and call it even.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

electing chaos

I suppose the signs had been made well beforehand.

In the last month, my town has been covered with political signs for a candidate who was running for the school board. It was a little disarming. Everywhere I turned there they were, in front yards and vacant lots, lined up along the side of the road, vibrant red and white signs on small wooden posts, calling out in their mission of recruiting one more vote. I normally dislike this form of political advertisement anyway, but this time there was more at stake. I mean of all things the school board?? I couldn't help wondering if the signs were a sign...are they speaking to me of things to come? the challenges of having a child in school?

It's years in the future - roughly four or five, of course - before Isaac walks through the doors of an elementary school, provided we choose to send him and not take some alternative route to education for our boy. Nonetheless, this year is flying by - what's four or five more but a blink of the ever deeper set eye ringed by black circles?

So much to consider. Will his teachers have a clue? Will he make friends? Will he love it? Hate it? Understand enough to transcend it? Will he tell me what he really thinks about all these new influences on his little mind? And now, the school board to worry about.

The signs urged: Elect Katrina!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

cleaning up the spam

alright. it stops here. not only have i figured out how to delete the dorky spam comments from my blog, i hope we (and when i say "we" i mean my husband the computer whiz) have successful set things to avoid them in the future. i still have more to delete - they are all over my old archived pieces, but we're on our way. there will be no more ads for scrapbooking websites thinly disguised as new readers (do people really fall for this crap? does this work?? i need to know!) i know you are all disappointed but you'll just have to google on your own if you want more info on scrapbooking and stretchmarks.

and now, of course, my boys have awoken and here i go...

Friday, September 30, 2005


cat naps: what luck

I tell Isaac all the time he is a lucky baby to have two kitty cats. We’re doing our best to foster mutual respect in the baby, cat arena but if Isaac could read my mind sometimes or understand what I tell these fur balls under my breath…

My cats have issues. Zap Mama and Emily are doing pretty well with the baby, but baby or not, they have issues, issues that complicate my already complex life.

Considering the potential for baby toy to become cat toy, they have been REALLY good. Still, every now and then Mike or I will say things like, "The cats have adopted the pacifier." or "The cats have transported fuzzy bear to the kitchen." And okay, why should Emily take the fall? When we say "cats," what we mean is "Zap Mama."

Both of our girls originally came to us from the SPCA as fosters – mama cats with litters. Emily had six little ones. Zap had four, but we lost the runt – don’t even bring me there.

We knew Zap was "special" right away. Let’s just suffice to say she needs a lot of attention, and I am the object of her pleas. But we’ll get back to her. Emily has always been the "normal" one of the two. Sure she had some scarcity issues when she arrived, constantly trying to bury her food bowl in the kitchen, but ya know, sometimes a soul goes through stuff. Over all, she was loving and sweet, got her people time in, then, unlike her hyper-neurotic sister, did normal cat things with the rest of her day, like sleep.

These days things are in – how shall I put it? – an "adjustment" period? Emily can only be described as clingy. She has taken up more and more of Zap’s worst habits. And Zap. Zap has stepped up her usual insanity of following me from room to room to room talking nonstop. Although I swear she understands 80% of what I say, I cannot seem to explain to her that going into the bedroom and meowing loudly as I’m finally getting the baby to sleep will not increase her time with me, but will stand to, in fact, sabotage her plans of having me stand next to the food bowl while she eats and wiggle her peacock feather just so between the futon and the floor. I’m not sure if any of you can imagine what it’s like to be so sleep deprived you can’t face the day, spend twenty minutes rocking the baby out and be on the brink of an hour’s relief, only to have to start from zero again because your CAT has decided to rule your life.

If Zap doesn’t cry and wake him up, she follows me every step so that I have no break from being – literally – pawed at day and night. If I close the door she will scratch at it incessantly – no matter what side of it I am on. If I put her outside she can and will meow loud enough still to wake up the baby. Both animals have been known of late to hurl their eleven pounds in a flying leap from the dresser onto my chest as I lie in bed in a tenuous sleep between the 12am and 3 am feedings.

Zap is ratcheting up her co-dependent behavior every day and Emily has begun to bury her food bowl again. Our little blended family is showing a few cracks. Frankly, I’m at my wit’s end. I can’t take it. I love these animals and I try to give them what time I can, but get me the pet psychologist, please!!

Just when I think I’ll lose it completely as I go in to get Isaac from another abbreviated nap, I see his face as he focuses on his kitty cats. It is luminous. He is in deep, deep love. He squeals and throws his hands forward, so excited he doesn’t know what to do. Emily rubs her head under his hand, forcing a pet. Zap rolls and yawns, causing Isaac to giggle and eat his fingers.

The other day when I got home from writing group, the sitter told me, "Your grey cat is really tolerant." Oh dear. We are working hard on Gentle, Isaac! Pet nice, with your flat hand, but we are far from mastery. "Before I could stop him, he had pulled her whiskers, then grabbed a handful of fur. She just sat there!" There is a pause. "She just sat there!!" she repeats. And then, "He’s a lucky baby."

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I'm showing the new sitter around the house. "And this is where we keep the extra pacifiers," I say, sweeping my arm by a shelf near the changing table. And then it happens: one of those moments when you suddenly see your space with an outsider’s eyes. Ohmigod. "Yes," I say, clearing my throat and trying on a good-natured grin, "Here. We keep them right here, next to the Russian vocabulary cards and the tape measure. Naturally!" The sitter, a shy woman in her forties, allows one soft chuckle to escape her mouth, then turns away out of politeness, back toward the living room, while I take a moment to bury my face in my hands. What is the statute of limitations on chaos due to a new baby? I’m growing nervous that the months are ticking by and I am still a complete disaster.

The new sitter is not who she was supposed to be. She was supposed to be several other people, but she is not. For example, she was supposed to be the affable middle-aged multilingual woman with undying energy and all of my same philosophies about childrearing who charges reasonable rates with no minimum time requirement. (NB: I never met this person. To my knowledge, this person does not exist.) She was also supposed to be the crazy grandma from Brooklyn with the raspy smoker’s voice and accent of my youth ("Oh my Gawd! He’s be-U-dee-ful!! …I can’t wait ta get my hehnz on that li’l Eye-Zik!" – NB: I met this person. This person is quite real.).

The new sitter is a soft-spoken Midwesterner, who wears lots of white blouses and tan slacks, and is allergic to my cats and most other things in the Universe. Some of you who don’t know me well or have only read this blog on occasion may think I purposely picked Miss Mild-mannered over the Brooklyn grandma who got lipstick all over my son. You would be wrong. I called the Brooklyn lady too late and she got another job. ("I’m so sawrry! I tr-eyed ta cawl ya back yesta-day ta tell ya, but chew weh on da phone, ya blabbamouth!")

Isaac seems okay with the new sitter, although so far, he’s refused to let her feed him. She came highly recommended by a friend who knows her personally and whose girls love her, and so far I can’t complain. One day she brought us hand sewn blankets and the next she did my dishes. Oh, yeah, and she likes my baby. For my part, I call Mike at my break in the writing group, tell him to call home and call me back to tell me how things are going so that if there is crying I won’t hear it, and if he’s smart I won’t even hear about it. I’ve gotten so I can almost concentrate while I’m there. Sort of. I tell myself it’s good that Isaac be exposed to people unlike us, but I still catch myself writing extensive notes on just how to put him to sleep, or what to do in a myriad of situations depending on the outcome of what came before (if you answered "yes" to any of the following, skip to section B…). I also catch myself wishing he were at least learning another language – like German, or Brooklynese.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Halloween is scary

Halloween is scaring the crap out of me because now, I’m – gulp – a mom!! Aaaaaahhhhhhhh!

I was already stressing over the fact that Isaac will have to grow up with a mom who not only cannot sew him cute little costumes, she cannot even sew a button back on a shirt, but now it’s worse. I’ve gotten my first invitation to a baby party. I am completely unprepared for this. Someone with a baby Isaac’s age has 1) conceived of a party 2) planned this party 3) designed and mailed invitations 4) made their kid a costume. And the culmination of all this – the damn party – will be almost a MONTH before the bloody holiday!

I’ve called with my regrets.

getting things done

More euphemisms. I hear other new moms complain all the time that they can’t "get anything done." When pushed, however, it seems that what they want to "get done" is always the laundry, the dishes, and the vacuuming. Doesn’t anyone long to read a book? Take a walk? Write a poem?

Today on the phone my husband confessed, in a rare moment of life imbalance, that work was getting ahead of him, he felt swamped. Later in the same conversation, I mentioned that I wanted to try to find time to talk about our schedule of things again and how I am still uncomfortable, unsatisfied, and unhappy with my days – i.e., my life. About how I see Isaac growing older and my job not necessarily becoming any easier. That in fact, I think it will become harder and harder in the next couple years and am I prepared to stay at home with him or to go to work or to do something else or nothing or all of the above? "Maybe Wednesdays aren’t enough?" my husband offers, referring to my recent accomplishment of returning to my writing group once a week.

Writing is my work. Imagine, I want to tell him, that you feel the overwhelm you feel today at work every day, all day. Imagine that someone told you you could go to work but only once a week for a three-hour meeting. Imagine that you were given no guaranteed time to prepare for your meeting, and that you could never follow up on the ideas volleyed around at the meeting. Now, you are a responsible individual. You care about your work. Indeed, let’s pretend you have a passion for it, but you just can’t seem to get anything done. How does it feel?

Friday, September 23, 2005


In talking to a friend recently I described walking around town with Isaac as akin to hanging out with a famous person. Everyone stops you to talk. Everyone wants to be close to you. Prior to my current incarnation as a mother, I have had a few other encounters with the famous.

When I was an undergrad in college, I lived for a brief time in a small town in Mexico with a host family. There were four boys ranging in age from seven to sixteen. My host mom was a quiet, serious woman who taught elementary school. My host father was a judge and the principal of the elementary school in the tiny town. There was always a flurry of activity around Mario. Going anywhere with him was an adventure. Leave for a simple errand and you might be gone all day. Every half-block we’d stop and greet whomever, my host dad taking off his ball cap stitched with the logo of the majority political party, wiping his brow, and replacing it on his silver head of hair a dozen or so times at each meeting.

My time with my host family included Mother’s Day in Mexico. I had been to the market that morning to look for flowers. I could only find gladiolas, which I associate with funerals, but it was what they had and, hoping the two cultures wouldn’t suddenly match up on this point, I bought them. (At my wedding, I carried calla lilies. When my photographer saw the bouquet, her comment was, "How sweet, honey, you chose the death flower!" This is the same woman who on seeing me when she arrived said, "Oh thank goodness you look beautiful. I’ve had such a day. If I got here and the bride looked like shit, I was going home!")

Several hours after I’d decided on the glads, my host dad, Mario – "Papi" – came home. He took command of the situation. Now we would all – the four boys and me – go get flowers for mother’s day. I glanced at my glads and obediently got in the car. We drove all of ten blocks, stopping at least ten times. Finally, we arrived at a non-descript house and parked. I looked around carefully on the dusty street, waiting for the next extended hand to jump out and accost Mario. No one. We might actually accomplish our task. "Buenos!" my host dad bellowed from the street. (The shortcut for "Buenos Dias") "Buenos!!" he hollered again announcing our arrival. Finally a round, dark woman in an old dress poked her head out and called back "Pasen!"

We shuffled into this woman’s living room where there was exactly one arrangement in a basket sitting on the table. "We’ll take that one," Mario said, actually pointing to the lone bouquet. The florist lifted the basket and handed it to my host dad. Mario made some pretense to pay and the woman waved him off.

That evening we presented my host mom with the basket, over which she made much fuss. At some point when Mario was otherwise occupied, I handed her the gladiolas, over which she made an equal fuss and towards which she showed no sign of being offended by funereal implications.

Then it was off to the Mother’s Day celebration in the town square. Families crisscrossed each other to get through the people and from one spot to another. It seemed like everyone in the town had come out. The whole event had the feeling of a rock concert. People were jovial; everyone was waiting for something to begin. As we entered the square, there was a man handing out ticket stubs to all the moms so they could have a chance for some of the prizes that would be raffled off. He tried to hand me a ticket and I waved him off vehemently. Our little family took our place standing behind the rest of the crowd, craning their necks toward the temporary stage. There were music and vendors. There was a lot of standing around.

Finally, a man appeared on the small stage pacing back and forth and speaking unintelligibly into a microphone. Suddenly we had reached the moment we were all there to experience. He called out numbers three times each and all the moms scanned their tickets. Eventually, there would be a whoop from somewhere in the crowd and a ticket, like a tiny red flag, would wave in an arc above the sea of heads. Everyone applauded and the winner clawed her way to the front to retrieve the prize – things like toilet paper or sets of plastic bowls – from the man on stage.

My host mom didn’t win anything. But we all had a blast. The women were so forefront that night. So celebrated. Being a mom that night, among the plastic bowls and packages of toilet paper, was like being famous, for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I’m fine, thanks. How are you?

Have you ever noticed that everyone always registers their kids and themselves as "fine" no matter what trauma or misguided science ruled their childhoods? For example, "I let all my kids cry themselves to sleep for hours at a time and they turned out fine." Or, "I fed you whole milk and sugar in a bottle from the time you were three days old and look, you’re fine." Or, "I’m sure I got dropped, but I turned out just fine."

Okay, we are not all "fine". Someone is lying. If we were all "fine" this world wouldn’t be quite so fucked up. Somewhere along the line some of that crap made a difference and it wasn’t for the better. Of course, if you want to keep fooling yourself, that's fine with me.

Monday, September 19, 2005

it's a big world out there for such a little guy.

a man with something on his mind.


Little Mr. Isaac is turning seven months. It’s crazy. There he is. My walking calendar. He’s doing all kinds of things like trying out real food like applesauce and watered down rice cereal. (You gave him banana? my sister asks in wonder as we discuss his eating habits. "Like, from a banana?" Once again I am found out as the earthy crunchy black sheep, shunning jars in favor of what the foods looked like before Gerber got their hands on it.)

Besides a slowly evolving menu, Isaac’s motor skills are improving too. He is fond of rolling in one smooth swoop from the middle of the living room to completely under the futon. I look under to find him, little mechanic, lying on his back checking out the flaws in the mattress. He protests when I pull him out and I’m usually sorry that I have passed up this chance at distraction from teeth five and six, still taunting us from just beneath the gum line, keeping us all up at night with their promise of greater things than bananas.

And as he grows, I am daunted by the thought of babyproofing my apartment. I was lamenting losing all my lower bookshelves or losing the books and photo albums on them to my newly mobile baby and where-will-I-put-them-we-have-no-storage when one helpful soul asked if I "scrapbooked". She further offered that there is a group at her church once a week that "scrapbooks" together and includes "women like me". Holy shit. Who, I tremble to inquire, are "women like me"???? And what are they doing pasting borders down over tea and godly conversation???? If I ever use the verb "to scrapbook" shoot me, no questions asked. With all due respect to those who enjoy creating scrapbooks, I think I’d rather fall on a rusty saw.

We should be handing to our babies who we are. We should be offering them– along with mashed bananas – a healthy dose of our selves, but the self I was has suspended certain key pieces in order to take on this consuming, albeit temporary job of new mom, and now more of me, i.e., my books, my books, and my memories need to be literally packed away too? Color me the cranky artist non-scrapbooking type, but am I the only one that finds identity crises in babyproofing?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

go green

Okay, I’m just jealous. When I throw the pillow at Mike and he doesn’t wake up or even stir, when I shove him and he finally – after several knocks to the ribs – lifts his head confused and groggy and really, honestly doesn’t know what’s going on because he has fallen back asleep effortlessly, was never truly awake in the first place, when I have to tell him "Move! I have to put the baby down again." I’m ticked. I’m exhausted. But really, I’m just jealous.

Monday, September 05, 2005

what work is

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting for one foot to another…
-Philip Levine, from "What Work Is"

I suppose you could say am one of the lucky ones. For the moment, I am able to stay home with Isaac. However, usually, on about four of the five days I don’t feel lucky. I feel tired and pawed at, cut off from the real world, and sometimes hopeless. But with whatever part of me is sort of awake and has energy to think, I try my best to recognize my luck.

Outside of new motherhood, work is something to get away from, off from, out of. Suddenly, however, after you’ve had a baby, many people (many of them without babies) act like it is a life-giving Mecca to which one must return posthaste. If I complain –I know it’s hard to believe—to someone about the stresses of my day, I hear "So when are you going back to work?" In truth, I hear this when I don’t complain, too. Ah yes, the solution to my woes, the key to increasing the quality of my life – work.

You see, I don’t want to do what I did before, and this poses a problem. I can’t just slip into a role I know, resume banter around a water cooler, pick up where I left off. I need energy and space to think up a new next step and, well, yeah, um, energy and space?...

I just got the call. The call that comes about two weeks before every semester starts. The one where someone needs to staff a class "desperately." My former boss’ voice on my answering machine spills compliments, ("I thought of you right away…You are one of the best we’ve had…") and my ego begs for another chance, while my heart screams "NO!" Teaching – let’s see, handing young people lessons that they may not be ready to deal with, tending to their various learning styles and emotional needs, providing feedback on their progress, coaxing them always to the next level... and this is different from what I’m doing now, how?

blather, apologies in advance

For a while it’s that I don’t have time to write down what I’m composing in my brain, and then, after that goes on too long, it’s that I don’t have anything in my brain any more. The past six and a half months have been like walking uphill with my head down against the wind. My free time is like New Year’s Eve – much hyped and anticipated and never quite reaching the heights of fun and excitement that threatened to besiege the participants. I’m past the time when naps are enough. At one point, just to sleep was really all I needed. Now my expectations have risen, my boredom has pushed me to want to do more. But what? It took me the longest time to realize that some of what I was was bored. I was bored being with an infant all day. The energy it takes to take care of him is coupled with the energy it takes to manufacture things to do to make the time pass.

I am still mad. Mad at not being able to change this situation of the anti-community in time to help myself. Mad that a new week is coming and again AGAIN my husband will leave me alone with our baby for hours and hours, five days in a row. Mad that I am so tired I can’t begin to tackle the events of the outside world and yet I’ve never been more concerned about what is happening. I change diapers and meanwhile the world turns, making that sound that old rollercoasters make before the drop, ratcheting slowly toward a screaming descent. Or maybe we’re already over the top.

My small babe fights himself to nap. Yells for peace and quiet. Wriggles and squawks in an attempt to return to the dream world I imagine he came from. Who can blame him? I couldn’t fix things before he got here. Finally, he relaxes in my arms. On the way to put him down, I pass the mirror. And there we are. His small frame collapsed against my rib cage. His face turned toward where he used to live.

I’m exhausted, I have a cold- my second in less than two months, and there is mold growing in my bedroom closet. I’m not supposed to be somebody’s mother. It eliminates the option of giving up and I’ve always been quite fond of that option. What on my list of things to do will save the world? "Organize pictures"? "Buy cat food"? "Post Blog"? What can I say I’ve done for this baby and the rest of us today?


Is six and a half months too short a time to become jaded?

When Isaac was only a wee soul, maybe 2 or 3 months old, I reluctantly put him in the car to do a couple errands. We’d be gone only a short time, the drive would only be about 10 minutes each way. At the end of our errand running, I carefully opened the car door so as not to bump his head, then, after successfully placing my bag on the seat, promptly backed up and banged his head on the open door.

We both heard the thud. We both looked up stunned. We both began to cry.

We sat in the front passenger seat rocking and crying for a good while. Then Isaac found his comfort boob and slowed down the hysteria to an occasional heaving sob that maintained the dramatic effect. Eventually, I was forced to face the transfer to the carseat, which of course saw the dawning of a new, revitalized version of the outpouring. Half-way home, when he suddenly stopped crying and fell asleep, I was positive I had given him a concussion. I called Mike from the car to make my tearful confession.

"I’m sure he’s fine," he told me. "But how do YOU know?" I blubbered, mad at him for being at work and mad at me for being such a negligent parent.

"Is there a bump?" he asked.
"I can’t tell."
"Then he’s probably fine."
"Should we call the doctor?"
"I don’t know," Mike sighed at me.
"I hate this."
"I know."
"Should we call the doctor?"
"I think he’s fine."

This went on for some time.

Fast forward to today when I was kneeling down in front of Izzy’s bouncy seat to plunk him in it, which I did and before I could strap him in, when I was still reaching to hand him his toy, he somehow ended up on the floor face down beside me. Now, he didn’t fall far and there was no thud at all. Just all of a sudden, there he was, laid out on the rug—the cheap, ugly rug my landlord hasn’t replaced that the cats so like to scratch despite the fact that I continually tell them we rent. "Isaac!" I said in surprise. He started to cry. And I…well… I … started to laugh. My son did not see the humor in the situation and made his very best boo-boo face at me. I picked him up and continued to giggle. "What happened?" Mike wanted to know. "He fell on the floor," I said, still amused, and that was all.

Perhaps it was that nervous laugh people like to talk about. Or maybe I’m just mean. It’s hard to say. But I think it’s interesting that as my baby’s cognitive development progresses, so my hyper-concern subsides. In other words, when you are the most zealous in your worry over their well-being, these kids don’t know a damn thing about it. By the time they know enough to know, they see you in your modified mom state – hardened by who knows how many more bumped heads and face plants, by just a few too many sleepless 4:00 ams.

I can’t say I don’t still freak out several times a week about how I or Mike or the world at large are slicing into the innocence of this child and even, possibly, putting him in harm’s way, but some of the roaring-momma-bear hormones have been replaced with the eh-he’ll-live hormones. Consequently, I might even have a chance of making it through alive too.


It's still just a little early for Isaac to save the world. Can you help?

Salvation Army (lower admin than the Red Cross)

Noah's Wish (They help animals in disaster situations.)

Friday, September 02, 2005

message for the masses, or, why I hate cars reason #1542

I’d like to clear up some odd misconceptions.

As you drive along today, talking on your cell phone, drifting into my crosswalk or blowing through the stop sign, I’d like to remind you that your third trip to the mini mart today for coffee, your date with the asshole that will talk incessantly about himself, the quick jaunt to Macy’s for a shopping fix, the dash back from lunch to the job you hate, are – I know it may amaze you – not more important that the life of my child. Get out of my crosswalk, get out of your car, and go home. Shut off the engine, go inside and stay there. And if, when you turn to put the key in the lock, you find your living room furniture is not covered in river silt, that your cappuccino machine, your pets, your neighbor, are not floating by you, be glad.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Happy Birthday, Fetal Positions!

My blog turns one year old today!

In a little retrospective, I was glancing back at some of my more favorite-er entries over the pregnancy.

Stuff like August 30th's "Your Baby and Citris Fruit" Sept 14th's ""the fat lady's float" Sept 16th "into this chaos, a new life" and October 5th's "il bambino bilingue."

October 8th is an interesting one since it's another fiasco with the Jetta. Then there was October 20th "In a bi-costal state of mind" - though it had little relation to babies or motherhood (or cars). I liked November 3 (what child is this?), 8 (the chemical make up of ginger chews) and 15 (my little fruit fly), and December 28 (a gathering of grandmas). Jan 7 and 27 hold some interest too. And I realize that if I was savvy and had time to spare I'd make links to these pages, not that you all have time to spare.

Anyway, there it is. My own half-assed retrospective. Meanwhile, Isaac is rolling around like a log these days and cutting tooth number three...loudly and with significant drama. And me? Hey. I'm an old pro. Like, well, I thought about whether or not the ink was non-toxic after I smooshed his little foot into it to preserve his tiny toes in the baby book, didn't I? (Dude, it was for the book. )

Monday, August 22, 2005

when you’re a Jet-ta: "adventures" with cars

Just once before I die I’d like to say I traded in a car instead of tried vainly to donate what was left of one.

Well, darn if our car shopping stalled a long time ago and darn if that didn’t come around to kick me in the pantelones. The fact that my car would choose to die on a weekend when there is a major car show in town attracting people from all over the world who want to show off, sell, and/or buy each other’s incredibly expensive, sleek, racy machines is not something that surprises me. The car gods have no mercy. They are a cruel, mirthless lot that enjoy irony and human suffering.

It’s really not as bad as it sounds, though. I mean, when my car just refused to continue moving in the intersection of two busy four-lane roads with my baby in the back, causing me to fear being rear-ended before I could find my flashers and extract Isaac from his car seat and then dodge minivans (it’s always the freaking minivans!) to reach safe ground, I was, after all, on my way to a gynecological check up. So you see how my life doesn’t completely suck.

Once we escaped to the sidewalk, I turned to the first people I saw walking by – two men, one possibly approaching fifty and smoking a tiny cigarette butt, and one older and more wizened in the face. I had failed to find my flashers myself, you see, and I asked for their help. They kindly suggested actually pushing my car off the road. Ah, this sounded like a plan even better than the one I had concocted.

They were on it in a skipped heartbeat and then, before I knew it there were more of them – two more, three, four, five? At least six or seven men had convened on my lame vehicle – appearing all at once out of carpet showrooms and from behind desks at notary publics. They were all around the blasted Jetta shouting and steering and aiming for the nearest parking lot. They had, it would seem, been waiting for just this moment: staring at the clock ticking slowly through their Friday afternoon, just wishing for a chance to push a car. And then I showed up and their dreams were realized.

I called my midwife – whose house I was headed to in the first place – and she set out to get me and the babe. By then, most of the cleanup team was withdrawing, back to their sorry 9-5 existences, their short-lived glory a fading memory.

The two original men and I had questions for each other: "Are you sure your friend is coming?" they asked in chivalrous tones. I told them yes. "Are you sure I can leave my car there for a while?" I asked them. "This is our neighborhood," they told me, "We’ll take care of it." All of a sudden I was in West Side Story? (When you’re a Jet-ta, you’re a Jet-ta all the way…) "Give a call to Wayside Garage," they further advised. "Tell ‘em Woody sent you," said the older man. He’d been behind the wheel in the triumphant pushing episode. Woody. Yes, of course. Of course, your name would be Woody. What else would it be?

This is where your parent brain kicks in and you turn to your baby who is squinting from the midday sun and thinking about beginning to wail, and lie as best you know how. "We’re on an adventure!" I said brightly to Isaac. "Here we go!" I continued, as if reading a conversation between Pooh and Piglet, and punched the button for the cross walk signal harder than I needed to.

The people at the carpet store brought a chair out on the sidewalk for me to sit down. And that’s where I was when Maggie found me. Planted in orange floral upholstery, absurdly stationed on the sidewalk of Broadway Avenue, still sticking to my "adventure" story.

In the moment the adventure line makes some sense, but I refuse to carry it too far. I don’t know about your childhood photos, but ours have always included the shots with the cars. There’s the family, standing next to the car. The brother posed with the first moving hunk of metal he made run himself. "Oh that was the station wagon your father loved," people caption. Or, "Remember that Ford? What a good car," they muse, looking past the collection of small people dressed up and looking miserable clustered in front of the heavy doors. How come there’s never a picture of the piece of shit that had a penchant for untimely hood releases, or Kodak moments of when the U-Haul hitch broke on the bridge that time? If we’re gonna document here, then let’s get down to it. When I get myself back to the new spot where my car died for the second time after Mike added the part he was sure it needed, I’m bringing the camera. It’s going in the baby book. "Look here, Isaac. This car sucked. See the peeling paint on the roof? Here we are standing by the side of the road, stranded."

The only thing worse than having a car die, is the exercise of buying another one. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

banana bread

My time at home with this little baby person is easier than it used to be. I was forced to admit this recently when a friend asked me, in just those words "It’s easier than it was at the beginning though, right?" "Uh, yeah," I said, conceding. It doesn’t tell you much really, but a going-on six-month-old who laughs and gurgles is far better company than a barely six-week-old who still only stares in your direction occasionally with a look that says "Who ARE you??" and then screws up his face to scream … again. Yes, sure, easier. In the meantime, there is loads still to deal with for me, not the least of which involves trying to keep my mind alive while I hang out for hours and hours with an infant five days a week and the adult world only stops by long enough to predict dire futures for the boy and let him chew on their fingers (See forthcoming blog on "work".)

This endurance test has brought on a sometimes-desperate need to create -- something. For example, I am overwhelmed with the desire to buy presents for my friends’ birthdays and wrap them in unique ways. I wake up imagining silk scarves used as bows or poems in calligraphy fluttering softly from the handles of baskets of goodies they’ve always wanted. And I have found myself, since Isaac was born, much more often than I can explain, in the kitchen.

Normally, you see, I don’t cook. Don’t like it. Don’t do it. Rather spend my time on other endeavors, say, eating. That’s why I married Mike, a man who has been known to walk in the door from work and, with one hand still on the knob, reach for the cookbook. Early in our dating life, I can remember several incidents when conversations with friends who were demanding to hear in more detail just who this guy was I was spending so much time with, ended abruptly enough. "He cooks for me," I’d tell them beaming. "He cooks for you?" they’d repeat incredulous. And the conversation would need go no further.

Since having a baby, things have altered slightly. "I’ll make dinner," my husband might innocently suggest on a Tuesday evening. My gaze flits between the baby lying on his play mat zoning out the way he does just before a really big poo and Mike’s back headed for the kitchen "NO!" I rush at him. "Why don’t you watch the baby," I say, trying to hide the quiver in my voice and bounding forward to block his way. "I’ll make dinner" I smile with what I hope looks like genuine pleasure, somehow, I think to myself, I’ll make dinner. In the next scene, I’m standing in my tiny kitchen, hands at my sides, shouting to Mike in the other room "What do I do next??"

You might think that helping to "create" a human being would have satisfied me for a time, but it does not. Perhaps I recognize just how little I had to do with all that. Instead I crave a product from my days, other than a pile of diapers. Another discovery about the real impetuses behind the choices in domestic life. Those 50’s moms in aprons were screaming for help. (Well, maybe we knew that already.) I hate to jump on the bandwagon in times when color-coded warnings instruct us how afraid to be, but I feel it’s only fair to tell you all, if we don’t find a sitter on Wednesdays soon so I can escape back to my writing group (see forthcoming blog on "sitters"), there’s going to be banana bread… lots of banana bread.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

when good babies go bad

(been fighting with a few new entries I can't make work. in the meantime, here's this - in my opinion - only mildly satisfactory offering.)

Baby-rearing is rife with euphemisms.

For example, if someone asks you "Is he a good baby?" – this really means, "Does he sleep for long, continuous periods during the night?" If someone tells you "He is a good baby!" – this really means, "I haven’t heard him cry within my earshot in recent memory."

I am personally not in favor of parsing out the essential being of the youngest members of our society in terms of "good" and "bad". It is false and unhealthy. It is a goal of mine to avoid referring to my son as a "good boy." He will do good things and bad things, but of course he is good. He is good. Whether he cries or sleeps or slashes the neighbors’ tires. He was not born "bad". He did not arrive slathered in original sin. If I’m not mistaken, that white slippery stuff they shimmy out covered in is called vernix.

When did the shift happen? I used to be regaled with people delighted by my baby, whom they saw as cute and innocent – period. These days, hand in hand with the strangers waving and cooing at my son, adults suddenly turned into gooey, gaa-gaaing versions of their passive-aggressive selves, come the other comments. People are quite fond of repeating lines to me they think they are the first to deliver like, "Wait til he goes to junior high!" and "Wait til he gets his driver’s license!" If I’m lucky, they stop there. If I’m not, they continue their doomsday diatribe, recounting a thinly veiled version of their own offspring’s sad path toward the juvenile detention center. In the aftermath, I’m left standing, covered in drool, my own mouth slack, wondering what exactly I should do with these offerings. Should I thank these people? Should I wish them a nice day? Should I cover my babe with my body and run, fast and hard, away from them?

Toting Isaac around the grocery store the other day, I became aware of a woman speaking loudly. "I hate shopping for kids! They don’t like anything you get them!" To my dismay, I realized she was looking at me. Once she had my complete attention she continued: "You’ll see! Give it a few years! They hate everything!" Ah, my fellow parents, how I cherish their counsel. I smiled uncomfortably and moved swiftly away from her through the obstacle course of carts and displays of sandwich cookies.

Label your own damn kids if you have to, but leave mine alone. Come to think of it, leave yours alone too – they have to interact with mine. And you don’t want to mess with my kid – he’s baaaaaaaddd.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

socks: the mystery continues

Okay, so apparently baby socks disappear in the laundry in equal measure to adult socks.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

the mom’s plea (in progress)

Another cup of tea
I didn’t get to drink
perches on the coffee table,
a cold, still pool.

My new robe, an anniversary
present from the man
I married, smells of soured milk.
My old robe often smelled
of sex and look
where that’s gotten us.

I rummage about in drawers
-- something to wear –
the knowledge that today, again,
I will not get a shower, sharp around me
like a noon sun.

I am the mom.

Do not, therefore, bore me
with your shy attempts at art,
your designer poetry
in building blocks of careful vocabulary,
your plodding articles with obvious
conclusions. Throw yourself
into it; you don’t have time
to waste and neither do I. My mind
is splintered in a million directions:

poopy diapers laid out before me
like accident sites, cats in want of attention,
the fight I had with the man I married –
the robe gifter – at 4:00am this morning.

You’d do best to wow me –
short, swift bursts of splendor or grit –
not comet showers and grand finales,
but the stuff of every day, the
underbelly of an oatmeal breakfast,

so that I may see a truth, step out
of my life for an instant, throw back
my head in amused recognition,
like I did before
life became a quest
for a hot cup of tea,
and be back on the job again
by the time the baby is done
with his nap.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


It’s time to get away for an hour or two. This mission always turns out to be so much more difficult than it should be, and somehow days have gone by since your last self-preservation rendezvous. But you make the break. You jet away from home and make it to the pharmacy seconds before they close. You buy more teething tablets. The clerk has to unlock the door again to let you out. "I suppose you want to go home," he jokes as he twists the key in the lock. You suppose you want to go anywhere but home. The breeze hits you in the face as he gives the door a push. You are OUT. You are ALONE. What should you DO NOW?

You walk.

Everywhere there are babies. Everyone has a baby. EVERYONE.

You walk faster.

You notice the Mexican restaurant, its fresh coat of terracota paint shoulder to shoulder with the Bible bookstore on one side and the British pub on the other. There is music coming from the pub patio. Badly done Tom Petty covers on synthesizer. Tonight, it sounds so beautiful.

You walk slower.

You think back to the times you used to spend in that bar, complaining about how slow the wait staff is. But today, if you went in to sip a bitter Pilsner, or lick the lemon from the rim of your wheat beer, they could take all the time they wanted, and you would sit, the backs of the booth towering. You think about the dare you took once, there on the bar patio, everyone around the fire pit leaning in to hear each other, how you downed the shot, how it stung a little in your throat, your head, how you laughed, and your friends went up to the bar to order because the wait staff…how you talked that day, each one twirling a sweaty glass, about what you all might be doing in ten years, how "becoming a mother" wasn’t on the list for you, never came into your mind, and the drunks with military haircuts were beginning to sway with their arms around each other’s shoulders and sing along with the music: And I’m freeeeeeeeeee, freeeee falling.

Perhaps one of the last toothless grins - it's official - a tooth has broken through!

Mr Isaac studying up on the shuttle launch, though his mommy would prefer he not aspire to space travel.

someday sleep will find me again, embrace me like a lover, wrap me up tight in its massive, velvet cloak and spin me, slowly, through tiny, twinkling galaxies. sleep will come for me, lift me off on breezes perfumed in jasmine and rosemilk. sleep will guard me, its concubine, from all distractions, shower me in sweet, murderous kisses, call me its favorite. there will be a day, some day, when sleep will claim me again, sit by my bedside for hours, offering only the calm space of nothing. it will drop me down, heavy as water into the blackness of its well, where I will languish, happy, blind.

Monday, July 25, 2005

the trouble with postal carriers

They know too much.

Never mind that when Isaac was somewhere around eight weeks old, it was a mailman that witnessed him rolling away in his stroller as I fumbled with readying the car seat. Okay, so now I know – strollers have little break levers for a reason.

These days, our regular mail carrier is really good. I have apparently never had a really good mail carrier before because it is only now that I understand the compulsion to bake holiday cookies for the person that brings me my phone bill. This one is really good. My neighbor and I share a box; and he separates our mail. Hers goes on the left; ours goes on the right. It sounds like a simple thing, but in a world where I must look both ways before crossing a one-way street and beg the store clerk not to double bag my half-carton of eggs, it is like a glorious breath of competency. No more juggling Isaac in one arm while I attempt to sort her old-people organization newsletters from Mike’s computer-geek weekly. When we receive a package, the mailman brings it and the rest of our mail to my door. "Another baby present," he’ll usually chime pleasantly. And usually, it is just that.

However, he knows too much. I’ve greeted him at the door in various states of bathrobe and morning hair. I’ve answered the door with baby crying, cats leaping from desks to bookshelves, tossing the dirty diaper out of view and swinging open my world of chaos, bits of Pandora’s box seeping into the unsuspecting neighborhood. Afterwards, I always check the mirror, trying to imagine how my presence, my life might appear to this man, and what other slices of life he must encounter in a day’s work. I convince myself that the knot of hair askew on the top of my head says "casual artist skipping the shower to conserve water" rather than "new mom dowsed in an eau d'sour milk."

Last time he came by, I was actually properly dressed and so was the baby. Small miracle. We were, however, dancing around the house to the "Pure Funk" CD, and "Super Freak" was on. Look, Mike put it in the CD player – I was just trying to make it to nap time any way I could. Out of breath, stereo shrieking to my five-month-old about "very kinky girls," I hear the knock. "You’re so kind. Thank you." I try for a demure tone as the choir over my shoulder belies me. (She likes the boys in the band. She says that I’m her all time favorite…) Perhaps I’ll order those Baby Einstein videos with their classical music soundtracks and have them delivered express mail. Maybe I can redeem myself in the eyes of the only man besides my husband who knows Victoria’s Secret insists on sending me TWO of every clearance sale catalogue they print.

I wonder if my mailman has a blog?

can't get anything right

Well, hell. I just reread the "one year" entry and it actually sounds uplifting. It was supposed to be depressing, I think. Damn if I can get anything right these days.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

one year

I’m normally not the kind of person who pays close attention to dates. For example, if my husband hadn’t taken note of the date we met, I’d be content to discuss it as "sometime in August." (In a bow to my more ignoble memory stores, however, I do remember what I was wearing…)

I remember the date I found out I was pregnant. One year and eleven days ago. My journal from that time is conspicuously missing any mention of this momentous event. Days and weeks afterwards, there is nothing. Then a list of names. Then nothing again. Eventually, (a month and a half later) I read Operating Instructions, pried one white-knuckled hand from the ledge and started this blog. In truth, I’m not much of a blogger. I’ll confess here that I don’t even know what a "permalink" is. I’ve furthermore never made an attempt to find out.

I wrote so as not to go back to the ledge. I framed things in ways that let me rethink them, relive them, feel like I could possibly, just for the space of my thoughts on a page, be in control of the situation. And on the bad days, I wrote mad, stream of consciousness rants full of soul-searching and self pity.

Somehow, at the anniversary of the discovery that my son had latched onto a wall of my uterus – tiny, determined cells making me vomit such volatile substances as plain rice and go to bed with saltines tucked under my arm – issues I tried to deal with then have reopened. For all my writing, I didn’t finish with it in nine months. I’m not supposed to say these things. I’ve crossed over to the other side. The outside world has limits with ambivalent emotions such as mine. Like with grief, after a pre-determined but undisclosed amount of time, you should stop talking about it. With pregnancy, the limit is set somewhere around the time when they hand you your baby, wet and wrinkled, to route in your armpit for lunch.

I feel compelled to begin anything I say or write with the blanket disclaimer of "I love my baby." And really, I like him too. This kid is cool. Have you met him? He’s groovy. He talks to the cats more than I do. He’s just delicious to hug. He smiles when he sees me – me! I’m his mom. I’m Isaac’s mom. He will save the world. It’s a clear path – Sit up. Eat solid food. Save world. He hasn’t mastered anything on the list yet, but they are all inevitables.

Now on the bad days I don’t have time to write my stream of consciousness rants. And if I did, would I know how? Here on this side, it’s hard. It's terrifying for all the reasons I imagined it would be and some others that have only recently occurred to me. At this stage, I often hate my days, my wardrobe, my husband, my reflection in the mirror, fellow moms, my ability to find the negative in anything put in front of me, my need for sleep. Meanwhile, my son squeals with delight at the world around him and I twist myself into knots to show him its beauty, to hide from him his mother’s doubts, her white knuckles. This community I’m always prattling on about, this fucked up society – the healing starts here. If I can just do this for him. If I can just love him. If I can teach him he is loveable, maybe he can teach me the same.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Grandmas Tour: Summer 2005

A child can change things.

I had never before heard my mother-in-law sing "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?"

We have just returned from visiting family.

While Isaac is partial to "Itsy Bitsy Spider," my mother-in-law’s serenade was different enough from past experiences I’ve had on visits to my in-laws as to make me think that children can send all the known rules of conduct to the corner for a time out like no one and nothing else can.

We had two families to visit in two different states and seven days to do it in. We spent the first three and a half days with Mike’s folks in Massachusetts. That’s where the Doggie in the Window incident occurred, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The drive to San Francisco goes relatively smoothly. I sit in the back and entertain Isaac. We’ve chosen a night flight and it works. Isaac sleeps and eats and no one knows there’s a baby in row 28. Then we land at our layover. Charlotte, North Carolina: three and a half hours I will never have back. Exactly how many Cinnabuns can you fit between an arrival gate and a departure gate? Apparently A LOT. We avoid them all and sit to wait it out. Two airline employees are talking loudly and excitedly to each other about the free Lover Boy concert to happen in town that evening. Mike, also overhearing this conversation, bursts into jerky laughter, while I staunchly refuse to acknowledge what I’m hearing. A man’s cell phone blares out a Jimi Hendrix riff. It’s his wife calling from another part of the airport (played on speaker phone at top volume) to report back on ice cream sightings. He puts in a request for chocolate. It is 6 am Charlotte time. It is 3 am California time. I am writing notes in my "Worst Case Scenario Survival Journal" where they include advice on any number of emergency situations – falling elevators, piranha-infested waters – but nothing on airport terminals south of the Mason Dixon line. It says I can use the reflective surface of the journal itself to signal for help, but so far, nothing, and now the Lover Boy fans are exchanging racist jokes.

Mercifully, we eventually board a plane. Shortly after that, we land. Isaac could have done without the pressure change.

I’ll repeat the same mantra over and over again as we jet into summer like I forgot it could be. It is so hot here. I’ll field the same questions over and over again as we traverse a million people in airports and all other spaces connected to them. Four months. Isaac. Thank you. My internal and external dialogues mix until I’m continuously spewing a collage of short phrases, anagrams of meaningless sameness. It is. Four months. Thank you. so. Isaac. hot here. Four Isaac hot so here is thank you months. It is so hot Isaac thank you four months.

At my in-laws we settle in to sleep off the trip and gear up for the extended family get together, ostensibly for our benefit, that will include 17 adults and an uncounted number of children. Branches of the family will meet each other for the first time. I am not making this up.

Before and after the party, I watch the grandparents. I feel sorry for men sometimes. (Okay, often.) They are really just so confused as to their role. My mother in law plays with the baby. My father in law plays golf. My mother in law makes the baby laugh. My father in law makes himself a sandwich. My mother in law takes pictures of the baby. My father in law mows the lawn.

As the time approaches to leave, Grandma starts getting antsy. She offers to take the baby "off our hands." I pack, Mike packs, my father in law installs something onto his computer, and grandma dances Isaac around the house singing "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?" For the rest of the trip, my mantra will include this ditty as its theme song. How much is that doggie… Isaac. It is so hot here. …for sale? … Four Months. Hot. How much is…

After the short plane ride to Philadelphia we are only a baggage claim conveyor, a rental car shuttle, and two more hours of road away from my family. No sweat.

Sometimes I manage to vary the mantra just slightly. Isaac. Four-and-a-half months. It is very hot here. His name is Isaac. Really? Yes. …in the window…Thank you.

I can always tell when we’re closing in on my old stomping ground. The signs are many: "Jersey Tomatoes!" the farm stands call out. "Blessed Mother 20% Off!" says one portable marquee surrounded by statuary. But that’s still a good CD-length away from "home." When we come to the chainsaw repair place and the taxidermist, then we’re talking homeward bound. And finally, when we meet the blinking yellow light at the blind curve… well, let’s just say it says home to me in that if-you-got-rid-of-the-car-on-blocks-you-could-fit-another-jetski-in-the-driveway sort of way.

It is so hot here. Why is it so hot here, doggie in the window? Isaac. Four months.

Here’s the short list of things I miss from the east coast:
1. fireflies
2. sarcasm
3. lightning storms
I never quite catch number three on my visits back. Number two is provided in abundance by my family. And number one flickers around the peeling bark of the plane tree in my mother’s front yard after the sun goes down.

I bet my family can take more pictures than your family. Bet me? C’mon, bet me. My family is relentless in their love. I think if we flipped the pictures fast we could recreate the entire visit moment for moment. Isaac is kissed and passed and kissed. He is famous.

Throughout his tour, Mr Isaac doesn’t nap well. You’d be afraid to close your eyes too if you never knew where you’d wake up next or who’d be pawing at you next. At one point late in the game after many a missed nap, Mike, baby and I find ourselves in my brother’s house alone. Isaac falls asleep in what could only be classified as a pass out. Toy in hand he just topples over on his side on the rug and stays there for three hours.

Before any of us realize, it is time again to take up the mantra. Four months. Doggie in the window… Thank you. Isaac. Four …for sale? It has been hard -very hard - to be here, and I balk at leaving. There have been many good things that happened here. Their significance is hard to perceive individually – little flashes like cameras, like fireflies – but if you take in the whole landscape they brighten and expand, show themselves for what they are.

On our last evening east, I fiddle with an email break while Mike takes our cranky baby away from his cranky mommy. Soon though, I am compelled to join them. Maybe it’s guilt, maybe it’s habit, maybe it’s something nobler. I leave the sticky, muggy living room of my mother’s small, rented house for the sticky, muggy brown grass yard of same and watch as Mike points our son over and over again in the direction of the tiny, fleeting lights scattered through the dusk.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


On the eve of the 4th... Check out this song by David Rovics -- "Who Would Jesus Bomb?"

And here's a reprint of a commentary that I did last year for the radio station I contribute to:

It was 1997 and I was working in Washington, DC administering grants that brought graduate students from Central and Eastern Europe to study at US universities. The war in Yugoslavia had wound down not long ago and there was funding earmarked specifically for Bosnian students. We met the first small group of Bosnians in early July to acquaint them with the program and their new host culture.

We stopped off at a restaurant where they were overwhelmed by the menu. We navigated them around burgers and pastas, while the restaurant's owner made a fuss over his international guests.

A thirty-something dark-haired man named Adi charmed me from the start with his soft eyes and sweet manner. He told us about getting married to the love of his life during the fighting, and of the panic when they ran out of precious gas doing errands the morning of the wedding. They were sure Serbian mortar fire would catch up with the groomsmen and their car stalled in Sniper Alley. He talked proudly of his determined new wife who'd baked a wedding cake out of rice, as there was no sugar.

Soon it was the 4th of July. The owner of the restaurant where we'd eaten that first night had invited all of us to view the show from the rooftop there. The first few explosions of color and accompanying pops drew "oohs" from our group. Then more fireworks went off and the displays grew bolder, the sounds louder and more rapid.

Adi backed away from the roof's railing. He looked gaunt. "Too much like the bombs," he stuttered.

At the passing of each 4th of July, I remember this night when I realized what sounds like freedom to us, can mean for someone else, war.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


Before Isaac was born, I tried to send out as many submissions as possible to writing journals and various magazines. Some were poems I was revising like mad, others were essays that had started as blogs. It wasn’t as many as I would have liked, but, like I said, I tried.

At the time I thought this move wise – after all, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to concentrate on such things for…who knows how long. As it turned out, the rejections are rolling in – as they are apt to do for writers – and I’m having to swallow each one with a large dose of mommy hormones scurrying about my body. The good angel hormone on one shoulder tells me, "Oh, Kitty! The joy of motherhood by itself is reward enough! Writing is a process. Love the process!" While the bad, demon hormone on my other shoulder screams "Bastards!" (and then cries and eats ice cream).

But in fact one poem of mine was accepted, the original version of which showed up on this blog back in January, I think. I’m told it will be up on the online journal Literary Mama in the July 2nd issue.

Meanwhile, at the drawing board, one submission I made to another online mother-y zine received this reply: "Dear Daniela: Unfortunately, we will be unable to use your poem at this time…" Hey, if you’re going to reject me, could you get my NAME RIGHT?? Now, I think I understand why they call it "submission."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

advice column

Dear Ladywithebaby:
I can’t decide which stroller to buy. Can you help?
-- Carrying in Caledonia

Dear Carry:
The route to choosing the perfect stroller is obvious: First, exhaust yourself researching strollers on the internet, so that you are completely overwhelmed with choices. Next, staunchly ignore your peers who won’t stop talking about how you should go to the baby mega-store that’s an hour and a half from your house. (The whole point, after all, is that you don’t want to drive, you want to stroll.) Finally, hang out in the park and steal one. I’d recommend one of those jogging strollers – you can really book with one of those!

If you don’t do these things, you are a terrible mother.

Dear Ladywithebaby:
All the other moms in my Mommy and Me class report that their babes sleep peacefully through the night. My baby still barely gives me three hours at a go. Can you help?
-- Red-eyed in Ridgevale

Dear Red:
At your next class, stare deeply into the eyes of the other mothers until you have hypnotized them with the red spidery lines of your pupils. Then go like this, "LIARS! LIARS! LIARS! I HATE YOU!" Alternatively, if that baby of yours is a real night owl, why not take her out to the bars? Show her what night life is really all about.

If you don’t do these things, you are a terrible mother.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

post-partum high

It's the new craze about town - the "I-fit-in-my-pants-dance."

I-hi-hi-hi Fi-i-i-i-i-t in my Pa-hants! Pants, pants. Oh yeah! I fit. I fit in my pa-he-he-he-hants. mmmm - hmmm. Ooh baby. I fit. I do. Pants, Me. Oh yeah. (repeat chorus)

towards an identity

"Four months without eating your young. Impressive for any mammal." --my friend, beth

So I'm walking down the street the other day and there's a woman approaching me with a girl about four or five skipping ahead of her.
"Watch out for the lady with the baby," the woman cautions her daughter.
It took me three blocks to figure out who she was referring to.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

dreaming is free

I just bought Isaac a trilingual book. It’s in English, Spanish, and Achuar. The Achuar are an indigenous group in southern Ecuador. I find them fascinating because their dreams are a central part of their lives. Each morning they describe the dreams they had and elders interpret the dreams and make decisions about the day based on these interpretations.

Lately, I’ve dreamed there was a holiday we were celebrating where the traditional food was s’mores. I’ve dreamed Mike was angry with me because I didn’t pay attention to the paths and got us lost. I tried to read a map that was posted on a wall behind a group of young women lawyers smoking and wearing pointy-toed shoes – all at work on a Sunday. I’ve dreamed we were at a restaurant where, for a little extra cost you could have your picture taken with the prisoners of war held in the basement. I’ve dreamed I was trimming the dead and wounded leaves off a plant and when I was finished, there was nothing left.

Tell me, are conditions favorable today for hunting in the jungle?

mommy brain

Mommy brain is starting to leak into my ears.

The scene at a local cafe as I experienced it:

"Have you seen the new nipples?" says the clerk sorting through an old man’s change for the right amount.
"I don’t know about any nipples," the man replies.
"See? Look at this one!" the woman exclaims.
"Oh my!" says the old man. "Those are interesting."
"Okay, I got what I needed," the clerk tells the old man, returning a pile of change to him. "Have a great day!"
"I will. And I’ll be on the look out for those nipples now!"

Saturday, June 11, 2005


" I dunno know how you guys walk around with those things." – Elaine from Seinfeld

Having a boy is interesting on many levels, not the least of which is the mystery of their little penises. They are like magic wands or crazy straws or something. I don’t know. My son can pee all over his socks and leave his onesie completely dry. It defies all reason.

I peer over my husband's shoulder as he diapers Isaac -- another mysterious wee-wee, missing diaper, soaking instead newly clean and dry blankets in the vicinity. "Can't you aim that thing in some favorable direction?" I ask him. "It'll just move again," Mike informs me. My son coos sweetly in agreement and eats his little fists. I leave the boys to be boys.

Don't try this at home, kids. We're not talking about some ordinary garden snake. Maybe there’s such a thing as quantum penis.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

the age of innocence

One day this week, Mike went in early to work so as to be able to come home and spend a lunch with us. That morning I got the call: Flat tire on the way to work. Other tires looking bad. Can you meet me at Costco to get new ones put on and we’ll find lunch somewhere while that’s going on?

Costco? Me? The mother who is loathe to put her babe in the car, period? Who has panic attacks thinking about driving two miles to get, yes, a car seat check? "Do you really need me to bring the baby?" I’d asked. The woman chuckled, then, seeing I was serious, put her hand over mine for a moment and turned back to her computer. Costco has to be a good 20 minutes from my house. And the Costco parking lot outside their illustrious Tire Sales department on a hot day during the lunch hour was just the place I wanted to bring my precious infant…not!

Besides the obvious hazards, Isaac doesn’t like the car. He is not soothed by the motion, or the white noise of the traffic. He cries. I don’t do well when he cries. In a haphazard attempt to ease his car worries, I’ve bought him all kinds of toys that dangle in front of him – a mirror, a soft mobile of (you guessed it) safari animals, and other goodies. To top it off my radio is broken, so I have to improvise if I want to try to calm him with music. Bottom line? If you see a green Jetta weaving down the road driven by a woman sweating and singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" at top volume over the wailing from the three-month-old in the back who is wondering why his mommy isn’t coming to release him from his prison of a seat, but has left a poka-dotted lion in charge instead, get out of the way, it’s us, and we’re not having a good day.

The world has gotten just that much louder and dirtier, just that much more profane since I had a child. Why in the world would I want to subject my sweet, sweet baby boy to Costco? All that innocence. You can smell it. I think I’ve decided that must be why people keep having children. Why else would we continue to do this obscenely difficult thing? We’re addicted to the innocence.

Some weeks, my only accomplishment is bringing Isaac into public and making people smile. It’s his job at this point. (His job is also to bust those teeth the hell out o’ the gum line without completely making himself and his loved ones insane, but we’ll wait on that topic.) The other day we passed an old man we often pass, who always greets us pleasantly. He looked up at Isaac from his wheelchair and told me, "You can just feel the magic pouring from them, can’t you?!"

We couldn’t get the tires that day. The lunch rush and current sale made the line too long. But we’ll definitely get them soon. And one of these days, Isaac and his mom will get over their fear of the car. Once we have our new tires and new-found freedom we can cover more territory and take this show of beauty on the road.

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