Saturday, April 22, 2006

notes from the day the living room was covered in salad greens

Mike goes to work every day – talks to adults, moves in the professional world, receives accolades for his achievements. But that is not why I’m jealous and resentful. I’m jealous and resentful because he gets to eat lunch every day. Sometimes by himself, sometimes with colleagues, sometimes leftovers, sometimes treating himself to a grilled veggie burrito from the groovy Cal-Mex place nearby. No one to strap into a plastic seat with tray, no one casting applesauce hither and thither, no little hands to keep out of his own food, and there is always his own food not just when it’s a “good” day. He can set his glass of water down as close or as far from his lunchmates as he likes. His lunch is not interrupted by diaper changes or tantrums over who gets to pick up the phone when it rings…

Please go to sleep, Isaac. Please. Please go to sleep. Go to sleep!..

When I was in middle school, my friends and I would play “Name That Tune” with the popular songs of the day. One of us would put on a record (yes, a record!) and the others would race to be the first to name the song and band correctly. I sucked at this game. I’d have to put up the best front I could – “ooh-oohing” and bouncing up and down in my seat, wait-a-minute-wait-a-minute kind of stuff like the answer was on the tip of my tongue, but I never knew. In a funny way, I’m making up for that now. I can name any of Isaac’s books by the first line, sometimes the first word or two. And I’ve taken to hiding some of Isaac’s books. Just the ones he asks to read 400 times a day and that I find particularly annoying after the 2nd or 3rd go – the Elmo book, those fucking dolphins, and the duck book, which doesn’t tell you much since they are all (besides Elmo and the fucking dolphins) duck books...

Please go to sleep, Izzy. Baby, it’s nap time. Night-night. It’s mommy’s nap time. Go to sleep, Isaac. Please. please.

Every time I open the refrigerator Isaac grabs the bag of salad greens. Since he usually reaches for the beer, I figure I’m on safer ground and don’t really pay close attention. Each time, I convince him to put the bag back on the shelf, which he does with much pride in his ability. On the last frig trip, I apparently skipped this step. I notice him with the bag, then decide to pick up some form of reading material from the coffee table. I double check it has no bunnies or ducks in it, no one going on picnics, becoming tragically separated from their mothers and then triumphantly reunited, no one deftly sneaking counting games into non-existent plots, and start to read. When I look up, my son has undone the twist tie and spread the lettuce around the room. The cats come out to investigate. Isaac, always willing to share, offers them each a wilty leaf. They are organic greens, in case you were wondering. Only the best for my boy…

Call me out of touch, but I hate cell phones. That’s right, I said it. Hate them. I won’t go into all the reasons here. My husband and I share one cell phone. My friends think this is strangely quaint. Of course, compared to what we used to have, what we have now is a big improvement. It would be like moving from an 8-Track to an I-pod. The phone we had for a long time, up until shortly before Isaac was born, in fact, was a complete dinosaur that could be easily confused for an 80s car phone. Its charge wore out in minutes it seemed, so we bought a battery that clicked onto it making it the biggest cell phone in the world and us the target of ridicule. This was not the slim thing that fits in breast pockets or eye glass cases. It was a monster. Our friends would steal it away, taunting and passing it back and forth. “Look at this!... No, no, ya gotta see this thing!” “Hey, give it back,” I’d whine, like a grade school bully had just stolen away my hat and wanted to play monkey in the middle. “It’s for emergencies,” I’d tell them, though it has yet to help me out of one yet…

Please, go to sleep, Isaac. That’s right. Night-night. Sleepy time. …(Pacabell ’s Cannon blares from the living room) SHIT! I fucking HATE cell phones!!!! Okay, Iz, wakey time then. Wakey-wakey. Mommy doesn’t want to answer the phone. Here, you have the phone. Play with the phone. In fact, go play with the cats. They’re under the bed. There. See? They really want to play.

My husband gets home from swimming lessons with Isaac. I’ve cleaned up the salad greens. I am under the covers trying to make the day go away. Isaac has tottered into the bedroom and is trying to fit one of his dad’s dirty socks over his head. “Did you return the bikini bottom?” I ask Mike, referring to half the little girl’s pink and purple flowered bathing suit he found in our swim bag last week. “Yeah,” he tells me. I am waiting for the rest of the story.

“So you knew whose it was?” I try.


“And what did you say?” I’m not willing to let it go yet.

“I said, ‘Is this yours?’”


“And the dad said, ‘Yeah’.”

“So you didn’t say, ‘I found this in my swim bag, isn’t that totally weird? Did you wonder where it was all week?’?”


Isaac walks over to the bed so his face is next to mine and nods his head furiously up and down in agreement with his dad's reticence.

Can’t bleed nothing out of the men in my life. How’s a woman supposed to find things to write about?

coffee table smarts

Decide that you like college life. In your dorm you meet many nice people. Some are smarter than you. And some, you notice, are dumber than you. You will continue, unfortunately, to view the world in exactly these terms for the rest of your life.
- “How to Become a Writer” from Self-Help - Stories by Lorrie Moore

I’m trying not to judge. Not to be a snoot. Not to look at the world in terms of smart and dumb.

A fellow mom was complaining recently as her toddler reached unsuccessfully across the coffee table for a toy. “He does this every day,” she sighed. Her son, Isaac’s age, began to get agitated as he continued to stand where he was and reach for the fire truck. “Walk around,” his mother urged, “Walk around!” By this time, her son was pounding the table and screaming in frustration, his chubby knees bending and unbending, his face flushed. “Here, I’ll show you how to get it,” his mother offered, moving him to the other side of the table where, upon scoring the toy, he sniffled once and stuffed it in his mouth.

So, not 24 hours later there I was, minding my own business, when I saw Isaac walk up to our coffee table and reach once for a book too far away to grasp before walking to the other side of the table on his own and calmly picking it up.

There are way too many people in the world – these are adults I’m talking about now – who refuse to walk around the proverbial coffee table but prefer to stamp their feet and scream for what they want. How do I teach my son to move in this world? He knows better. He does better. But smart is recessive. If you mix smart and dumb, you get dumb. Really smart people start to do really dumb things sometimes. I’m constantly making concessions for dumb people, mainly, it would seem, so they don’t find out just how dumb they are. I think it’s time to stop this kind of behavior. We cannot protect egos when our children’s fate is at risk.

getting away

I regularly have to forgive myself and others for not acting as though this time away, whenever it comes, parsed out in however meager, disjointed bits, is as sacred as the sunrise. My time away the other day was to jaunt over to the post office. Sadly, I pined for this adventure - to move toward a goal not connected to my son, to speak to other adults not connected to my life. Eventually, I forget that the woman I’m talking to – the postal worker pushing 60 – is wearing fussy, green bunny ears on a headband. I reach into my bag for my wallet, which is not there because I’ve left it on the seat of the car, but I do produce an orange rattle with a monkey on it, a pacifier that has clearly seen better days, a lot of saltine cracker crumbs, and an old grocery list. The fuzzy-eared clerk tells me her baby's in his 30s now.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Evil Colander Boy

waiting for the Cat in the Hat

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold, wet day.
- The Cat in the Hat

Northern California sees record rain, braces for more wet weather
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Weather-weary residents reeling from the Bay Area's second-wettest March on record should expect more rain...
Mudslides Cause Problems Along Central Coast
8:24 a.m. PDT April 5, 2006
APTOS, Calif. - It was another day of wet weather along the Central Coast on Tuesday, and the saturated ground led to mudslides throughout the region. Rain left many residents frustrated and Pacific Gas & Electric crews were working around the clock.
Along Loma Prieta Drive in Aptos, the back yard of one home slid down into the front yard of another. ...

St. Daycare

Put it on the list of things I thought I’d never do. Consider sending my kid to Saint Anywhere. Daycare. Part time. Not easy to find. Even harder to pay for. But possibly the ease in my week that could build a kinder, gentler mommy, one who talks to adults sometimes and combs her hair. The daycare that might work the best is attached to a church. Not a church I am part of, would be part of, or even know anything about, really. What harm can they do to one-year-olds? my husband shrugs. Okay, I tell him, but we’d have to find somewhere else for him to be in a year or so, my religion meter blinking red. What harm can they do to two-year-olds? my husband persists. I don’t know the answer. I have a year to figure it out.

Now I know that that bullshit line that was popular with righteous moms some years back, maybe still is, about people having kids so that “someone else can raise them,” is truly absurd. Naturally, I had a kid so that my unrealized dreams could evenutally alight somewhere and I could extend my mortal life through this recomposite of my genes, but that’s neither here nor there…This job is 24-7. Most days it feels more like 29-12. And the idea that if my kid goes to daycare for 7-2, interacts with other children his age, is introduced to other adults’ style of being in the world, I am somehow shirking my responsibility is just part of the lie machine that churns, I’d say, at least 24-7.

So why do I feel guilty considering it? Fuck. They got me. I’m spinning. The machine is dropping lies ticker-tape style from the sky, like invisible petals printed with doomed fortunes. We get zero help in how to keep from losing our minds – to boredom, toddler logic, or the factory model society we move in. We really have to be ever-vigilant in our quest for sanity, creativity, and time to blow our noses. Perhaps St. Daycare can save my soiled soul, or at least that of my offspring.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

don’t do it

People, please. Let’s get together on this. If you can’t get to the battery in a toy without having the skills of my crazy mechanical husband or my son in another 10 years, DON’T BUY IT.

Sooner or later, they take over. Look, from Toy Story to the Nutcracker, batteries or not, these things can go wacko, and they don’t necessarily have our best interests in mind, so why encourage them? I currently live with a frog driving a car, who, for no good reason and with no one and nothing around him, will scream out “BEEP! BEEP!” every so often. I also keep company with a firefly that won’t stop giggling. No matter where I stuff the thing, I can’t seem to dampen its spirits – from under the cushions of the loveseat it chuckles, unsolicited laughter pokes out from beneath pillows, inside backpacks. Shut up, Crazed Toy! Shut up!! There is also the bear that whines the most pathetic rendition of Rock-a-by(e) Baby you’ve ever heard, though, thankfully, his cheeks no longer flash red while he does.

As I type this, the giggling continues. I think the firefly is the ring leader. They’re out for me. And if this is the last thing I write before they come for me, know it was no accident – that frog knew exactly where he was driving!

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