Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If It Ain't Broke...

So we moved.  Did I mention that was happening?  I might have, I don't know.  

Yeah, last Saturday we handed in our keys to the Studio City place, drove for five hours,  and picked up the keys to the SunnyHappySuburb place.  

I have a ton of things I want to talk about.  Pictures of our drive up north to share, pictures of our new house, a tirade on being caught up in a real-life, face-to-face Stay-at-Home versus Work-Out-of-the-Home argument on my very last night in Los Angeles (could I think of about eleventy billion ways I'd rather have spent my last night there?  Why, yes, indeed, I could!), stories about how stinking cute Ethan has been since we got up here and of course, I could always go on and on fretting about how I'm terrified by the prospect of having to make new friends and build a new life here. 

But I can't do any of those things this evening, my friends.  Because I am hopped up on Vicodin.  
Why am I hopped up on narcotics, you ask?  Excellent question. 

At about 5pm on Sunday, after several hours of watching the two-man moving team lug all our earthly belongings into our new house, I was chomping at the bit to get into those boxes.  I like to imagine that even though it took a month to pack, I can have this place looking like something out of the pages of House Beautiful in a matter of mere days.  Delusions, I know.  But to that end, I dove into the boxes the men had piled in the kitchen.  

Unpacking is a lot like going shopping for free.  Rediscovering your stuff in a new place, digging through the packing paper to find the treasure hidden beneath it, being reminded of how pretty your china is as it emerges from the packing materials (even if you only use it once a year), trying to figure out where all of this stuff goes in its new home--all of this is very enjoyable for me.  

What's NOT so enjoyable for me is when one of my fancy (urm, Target) plate chargers slips from the packing paper and falls, edge first, onto my big toe at the very base of my toenail.  No, actually, that is the polar exact opposite of enjoyable.  It may even be one of Dante's circles of hell.  There is nothing quite like watching your toenail turn black in front of your very eyes to make the contents of your stomach turn to pure water.  

Husband and Ethan were out at the time, and I tried to keep my screaming of obscenities to an absolute bare minimum as we'd just met our neighbors as they were returning home from Church and I am under the impression that Church is a very big part of their lives--did NOT want to tarnish their impression of me with a string of SONOFABITCH! WHATTHEFUCKWASTHAT??!! OHMYFUCKINGG-D, MYFUCKINGTOE!!!!!!"s wafting through our open windows and making their three kids' ears bleed.  

I held my toe and rocked back and forth on the floor, wondering if this was some kind of divine retribution for not attending Kol Nidre services.  Given the fact that only an hour earlier, Husband had walloped me in the skull with the side of a train table he was constructing, leaving me with a throbbing goose-egg, it seemed reasonable to think that I was indeed being punished with all manner of minor injuries for opting to unpack train tables and holiday plating instead of atoning for my year's worth of sins in synagogue.   

Over the next 24 hours I did a lot of icing and elevating and moaning and groaning every time the throbbing kicked in.  I buddy-taped my big toe to the toe next to it, at the suggestion of Facebook friends.   And of course there was the internal-organ shut-down inducing doses of Advil I was administering to myself.  

When Husband returned home last night, I decided I had to make sure I wasn't hobbling around on a busted digit.  While I'll never compete in a triathalon, I have sincere intentions of getting my act (and ass) gear and joining a gym up here, getting on the treadmill and transforming my frump-ass.  A broken toe that heals wonkily could put a big kink in that plan.  Fine.  So I've been here for 48 hours--time to check out the local Urgent Care facilities!

I drove myself, leaving Husband and E at home--last thing I need two days before Ethan starts his new preschool is bringing him someplace where exposure to the swine flu is an almost 100% guarantee.  There was, as there always is in an urgent care/ER situation, much waiting in the waiting room.  And then much waiting in the exam room.  

(let me take a second to apologize for any typos or general "what the hell is she talking about??-ness" from here on in.  The vicodin has taken effect.  Wow. )

I took this picture while waiting for the tiny little doctor man to come in: 

and really? This picture does not even come close to conveying the gross discoloration and throbby, swelling grossness of it all.  But I'll tell ya what--it looks WAY worse now.  

Why, you ask?  Oh, I'll tell you, but I won't show you because I love you too much to do that to you (also it's wrapped up under a metric ton of gauze tape right now so I can't get a picture).  

First, tiny little doctor man wanted an x-ray of the toe to make sure it wasn't broken.  An orderly wheeled me down to the x-ray room and the rollicking good time of "Are you or might you be pregnant?" game ensued.  Um.  How do you answer that question when you've been having unprotected sex for almost two years and not managed to get pregnant once in that time?  Well.  I "might" be pregnant, but it's about as likely as me being able to do long division in my head (read: VERY unlikely).  I tried to explain the situation to the orderly (this is where I start sounding like Julia Louis-Dryfus in Old Christine--sharing too much, knowing I'm sharing too much, unable to stop sharing too much---I'm really good at that), and he ends up saying that he can't let me have an x-ray without having taken a pregnancy test first.  Awesome.  

So fine.  There's a cup, and a restroom, and I go sit down in my exam room again.  Of course inside my stupid little pea brain there is the glimmer of a fantasy that I go home and tell Husband I dont' know if my toe is broken because OMG, HONEY, I'M PREGNANT SO THEY COULDNT' DO AN X-RAY AND WE'RE HAVING A BAAAAAAAABY!!!" Of course.   And then, ten minutes later I hear the orderly hollaring to little tiny doctor man, "That pregnancy test was negative!!" across the nurses' station.  Of course. 

So tactless orderly wheels me back down to the x-ray room, tells me to get on the table and then asks in all sincerity, "would it hurt your toe a lot if I taped it down right here?"  UM.  YEAH!!! Yeah, dude, that would EFFING HURT!!! Know why?! Because that's why I'm here!! My toe hurts with a blinding pain--your touching it would definitely make it HURT!!! GAH!

I did let him tape back my other toes so he could better see my big toe with the giant radiation machine.  Zip zap zap.  

Little tiny doctor man returns to my exam room moments later to announce the good news that my toe is not fractured and that all he has to do to make it feel better is poke a small hole in the nail to relieve the pressure of the built-up blood underneath.  

Erm.  I'm sorry--did you say poke a hole in my toe nail?  Like, down to the nail bed?  With a metal hook?  I didn't know whether to puke or pass out.  On the other hand, if you told me that cutting my hand off would have made the pain in my toe stop, I might have considered it.  

Next thing I knew, tactless orderly was holding my leg still while tiny little doctor man sprayed some sort of icy numbing stuff all over my foot.  You know when you're icing a sprained ankle and the ice is so torturously cold it feels like it's burning?  Yeah, it was like that on crack.   Initially I thought it was silly for the orderly to hold my leg down--I mean, I've had needles stuck in my spine and my stomach cut open and a baby ripped out.  The "gross" factor of a metal hook in my toenail was pretty much off the charts, but I didn't expect the pain of it to be anything I couldn't handle.  

Well, good thing for tactless orderly because if he hadn't been there holding my foot down, little tiny doctor man would be walking today with his nose stuffed with packing, my urge to kick him in the head was that strong. 

After the foot-freezing torture was over, I expected a quick needle-like poke and for it to all be over.  What I got instead was a momentary flash of bright orange light and a "woooooosh!!!" sound that filled the exam room.  Um.  Why was the room on fire??  WHY is the room fucking on fire???!!!! 

There was much flailing around on the part of LTDM and TO (I cannot type those names out again, people).  I think TO's armhair might have been singed.  Fortunately, the flame burnt itself out almost instantly--like a dessert flambe, only the dessert was my toe.   I didn't get burned at all, but was FA-REAKED out beyond pretty much any description at that point.  And my toe still really really hurt. 

LTDM thought the impromptu blaze was hilarious and said, "oh yes, that sometimes happens when the metal hook hits the freezing solution--it makes a spark and POOF! up it goes! ha ha!" I just stared at him, every fiber of my being screaming, "Get off the exam table and hobble the hell out of there!!!! He just almost set you on fire!!! What is he, Dr Nick from the freaking Simpsons???!!"   

Perhaps I should have listened to my gut because moments later, TO (smelling like singed arm hair) was holding my foot down yet again and LTDM was gouging at my poor sad toenail with the metal hook and squeezing my toe like he was trying to pop the most giant and disgusting zit you've ever seen, in an attempt to make it bleed and relieve the pressure under the nail.   And guess what?  Nothing came out.  Apparently I waited too long to go to urgent care and anything that could have drained out had long since clotted and I am now stuck with it for the duration.   And?  I now have a giant hole in my toe nail.  I'll tell you, THAT feels awesome, too. 

So you know.  Nothing much going on here.  Just your run of the mill moving-in stuff.  

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ode on a Farmer's Market

Last year, when we moved to Studio City, we learned that the farmer's market was a mere three blocks away.  For the past fifteen months, the market has been not only a source of fresh organic produce for us, but also breakfast burritos, choo-choo trains, pony rides and star sightings.   The stop at Starbucks on the way, and the stroll down Ventura place has become a part of our lives and, like the friends we've made here, one of the things we'll miss the most when we leave Los Angeles.   Sure, sure, there will be other farmer's markets in our new community and we'll go and enjoy them, no doubt.  But, like the friends we've made here, this farmer's market will remain a special memory for us.  And honestly, I doubt we'll be seeing Jason Priestly at any of the farmer's markets up north.  

oh, pumpkin spice latte, you minx.  You had me at "hello"

This child is so over me and my camera--I think he's started writing to George Clooney to see if George will advocate for him to get the mama-paparazzi to leave him alone. 

Our Starbucks.  Lurve it. 

Not a famous person among 'em.  What a drag. 

This lady has made our breakfast on Sundays for the past six months.  We love her.  Because god knows I can't scramble a few eggs with diced ham and throw it in a tortilla.  

Husband and Ethan high on breakfast burrito. 

Husband and me

Ethan sporting the remains of his apres-burrito fruit popcicle. 

Ethan and Penny celebrate that he managed to eat more of the popcicle than he ended up wearing. 


green figs

basket of pomegranates 

squash! It's fall! Yay!

heirlooms.  So ugly, they're beautiful.

who knew there were so many types of eggplant?

concord grapes

fall bouquet



who's got the Corona? 

purple baby artichokes.  If only I had a clue as to what to do with them. 

bye-bye, Studio City Farmer's Market! Thanks for the memories.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another Day, Another Anxiety

So, we move in ten days.  Ten more days of looking around this house wondering what the hell to put in the next box.  Ten more days (well, seven really) of dropping Ethan off at this preschool and picking him up.  Ten more chances to decide between the Coffee Bean on this end of the block, or Starbucks on that end.  Ten more days to get face-to-face time with the friends we've made here in the past 15 months. 

And it occurs to me again, as it has several times since we moved here, that Los Angeles hasn't been "that bad."  Sure, there's the whole raging inferno of wild fires and the pavement-melting heat of the summers and the asthma-inducing smog even on the clearest of days.   But there are also amazing people and beautiful parks and awe-inspiring beaches.  I'll miss those things. 

When Husband first dropped the Los Angeles bombshell on me, I spent many a night in tears, long after both Husband and Ethan were in asleep.  There was much hand-wringing on my part.  How will I deal with making new friends?  How will I endure the loneliness of not having daily access to my nearest and dearest?  What if no one in Los Angeles likes me?  The thought of living a friendless existence kept me up at night and sent me straight to a therapist's couch (please, we know a fair-sized hang-nail sends me to a therapist's couch, but still...)

After I got here, I threw myself into the task of making new friends.  Ethan and I went to the park every day.  If I saw you there more than twice, chances are I came up and started talking to you.  My plight wasn't helped by the fact that my kid, in perfect 2-year old dealing with life-changing transition fashion, made it a short-lived habit to beat the ever-loving crap out of other kids on the playground.  It's hard to make friends with other moms when they are attending to their battered toddler, especially when your toddler is the batterer.  People can be so judgey, right?  

My ego took a couple of hits.  But I realize not everyone can like everyone else.  It's okay if not everyone I struck up conversation with wanted to be my new BFF.   It was tough, but nothing a few deep breaths and a low dose of Zoloft couldn't smooth over.   And in the past year or so, I've made some really close friendships with a few woman I hope to be in touch with for years to come.   So the "hit or miss" method of friend-making really only has to have a few "hits" to be counted as a success.

With this move, though, there have been no nights of waking up in cold sweats and fits of tears, or fretting or rocking back and forth in the fetal position in a corner about the how, who, where and when of making new friends.  I have kind of quietly reminded myself "hey, you made friends here, you'll make friends there," and put it out of my mind.  I've talked a lot about the nature of friendship and it's role in life transitions in therapy and feel pretty comfortable with the "who will stick and who won't" sort of thing (this was huge for me as I lost touch with a lot of women back east I really thought would be the "forever" types of friends).  

I've essentially spent the last two months being giddy about the idea of cooler weather, being close to San Francisco, wine country, our gorgeous new backyard and my new, modern kitchen. I haven't really thought about the process of making new friends.  I just figured, whatever, the friendships will come, no worries!

But now that there are only ten days left, this anxiety is starting to nag at me.  All that going to the park and throwing myself at other moms?  Was exhausting.  I don't WANT to do that again. The slow process of getting to know the other preschool moms and figuring out who among them is good-friend material versus acquaintance material?  I don't WANT to do that again.   

I know I have to, but the thought of it makes me want to crawl back into bed, or resolve to find happiness redefining Ally Sheedy's Breakfast Club role, updated to suit a 37-year old suburban mom. 

So now I wonder about what the universe has in store for me 400 miles north.  Is this going to be the big joke on me?  All my fretting about making friends in Los Angeles was for naught, but the fact that I've not been fretting about it in terms of this move to the Bay Area means that I'm going to end up being that weird woman without any friends there?  

I need a hobby.  Or a lobotomy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's a Mom To Do?

During the past couple of weeks, the news has been smattered with stories of poorly behaved public figures--be they politicians who need anger management classes, sports figures who lose their cool after what they think is a bad call, or narcissistic pop stars whose delusions of grandeur make them believe that basic rules of civility don't apply to them.  (yeah, Joe Wilson, Serena Williams and Kanye West, I'm talking about you). 

These are certainly not the only examples of people in positions to be role models who muck it up by being flawed (or just plain idiotic) human beings. I mean, hello, Bill Clinton (I love the guy, but he's often displayed epically bad behavior), John McEnroe, and Sinead O'Connor (didn't offend me when she ripped up the picture of the Pope, but some of the rest of the world is still clutching its pearls in horror). 

Right now, I'm pretty content that Ethan's heros are the Imagination Movers.  Until one of them is caught in an illicit sex scandal with their neighbor Nina (or, Warehouse Mouse), I'm not going to worry too much about Ethan being disillusioned or negatively influenced. 

But what about later?  When he's a tween or teen-ager?  Are there politicians, sports stars or musical stars/groups that a mom can rely on to NOT fall from grace?  I fear the answer is "no."  When Michael Phelps puts himself in a position to be photographed partaking in a bong hit, it's a pretty clear guarantee that there are no guarantees when it comes to trusting public figures with your child's impressionability.  Sigh. 

What I fear, though, almost more than the effect of these public figures' poor choices impacting my son later in life, is what those poor choices bring out in the general public.   The day after Serena Williams' outburst, I read a Facebook update about it.  I hadn't seen the tennis match or Williams' behavior.  My friend's status update simply expressed disappointment in someone she'd clearly admired up to that point.  That's not what disturbed me.  About three responses down, a line began, "I know this is going to sound racist, but...." and continued with the sentiment that "you can take the girl out of the 'hood, but you can't take the 'hood out of the girl."  

When my head stopped exploding all over the couch, I took a deep breath and responded to this friend of a friend whose name I'd never seen before, "Yes, _________, that does actually sound incredibly racist."  A general rule of thumb?  If you have to start a statement with, "This is going to sound racist, but..."  perhaps you should just SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH. Just a thought.  I figured in the year 2009, that would pretty much be a no brainer.  If you're going to be racist, by all means, keep that crap to yourself.  

It makes me nervous that while Ethan will be impacted by pop stars who behave like spoiled brats or politicians who lie or cheat on their wives, he will almost definitely be more influenced by people he comes across in his daily life--people who may try to convince him that a single individual's bad behavior is somehow inherent in them because of their race.  Or, as we've seen so much of lately in the news, someone will try to influence him to make decisions based on fear or hatred rather than thoughtful consideration of facts. 

I know all of this is way in the future--for now, let's just bask in the happy innocence of the  knowledge that no representative for Sheetrock Hills is going to start calling for Handy Manny to be deported in any upcoming episodes on Disney, and that none of the kids in the Fresh Beat Band will beat the hell out of each other in a drunken brawl (yet).  But as a mom, I'm starting to view the things I see in the world and the people I encounter, through the potential future eyes of my child.  

It's hard when you realize that there really are no heroes.  It means the pressure is on to teach our little ones to have that much more confidence in themselves and to believe in their own ability to achieve their dreams, so they don't have to live vicariously through the experiences of those public figures who might let them down, or to put too much stock in those figures in their own lives who might lead them down the wrong path.  

On the other hand, I know I can't shelter him from that disillusionment.  As frustrating and scary as it is for a mom to digest, disillusionment is part of growing up.  I taught the book "Catcher in the Rye" for years, but now as a mom, I am finally truly understanding Holden Caufield's desire to put his little sister Phoebe in a glass case at the museum, so she'd never get any older, never be hurt by the harsh realities of life or by the people who will let her down as she grows up.  

Sunday, September 13, 2009

He is the...um, Walrus? I think...

In the past several weeks, Ethan's musical preferences have been testing the limits of my sanity.  I gladly participated in Music Together classes from the time he was eight months old until this past February.  I know all the words to Laurie Berkner's songs and can tolerate having them rattle around in my head far better than I thought I could.  But Imagination Movers?  Backyardigans?  I. CANNOT. TAKE. ANYMORE. 

So last week I decided to introduce him to the Beatles.  Our favorite performer in the DC area, Mr. Skip, included Yellow Submarine and Octopus' Garden in his repertoire, so I figured that at least E would have heard some of the songs and maybe I could convince him the Beatles were really just a cool new kid's band.  Way cooler than the freaking Fresh Beat Band (jabbing forks in my ears just thinking about that overly-cheery, beat-boxing foursome).  

So I whipped out my Beatles CDs (The Red Albums and The Blue Album--the greatest hit compilations that came out in the 90's) and put them in the car.  When Ethan asked, for the eleventy billionth time, for the Imagination Movers, I popped in The Beatles and let the super-cool musical education ensue. 

Know what?  Turns out the Beatles sing about a LOT of stuff you really don't want a three year old hearing about.  While Ethan is currently fascinated by "Penny Lane", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Hey, Jude" because he believes the Beatles are singing about his friends Penny and Lucy, and his Grandma Judy, I am a bit more distracted by little things like, "Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye." 

Um. Really, John?  Ew.  That's not *really* 3 year-old friendly, know what I'm saying?  I'm not sure it's even 37 year-old friendly, as it makes me kind of want to throw up.  BUT, Ethan's not picked up on the Pornographic priestess who's been a naughty girl for letting her knickers down.  He just likes that Lucy is in the sky with diamonds.  

So I'm just going to go on listening to the Beatles (Ethan refuses to listen to the poppy earlier songs--he wants the subversive Walrus stuff) and when Ethan asks what the Beatles are singing about when "I am the Walrus" is on, I'm just going to tell him they're singing about a trip to the zoo.  

And besides, I don't care who you are, hearing a 3 year old sing "If you go carrying picture of Chairman Mao, you're not going to make it with anyone anyhow," is funny stuff. 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We're always learning the things we want to teach our kids...

This afternoon, after I finished my last blog post, I packed up my computer and walked back to the Panera ladies' room before heading home.  When I opened the door to the restroom (it is a 2 stall room w/ one sink and dryer), I was greeted by a sight you don't normally expect to set eyes on in a public restroom.  A haggard-looking, I'm assuming homeless, woman, naked from the waist up, splashing water on herself in the sink.  As she heard the door open, she covered her breasts and darted into the handicapped stall.  Not knowing what to do, I went straight into the other stall, closed the door and stood there listening to this woman mutter over and over again, "I'm so embarrassed. I'm so embarrassed.  I'm so embarrassed."  

I looked down, noticed that there was no toilet paper in my stall, and I certainly wasn't going to ask her if she could spare a square and further mortify us both.  So I opened my stall and bolted out of the restroom and Panera entirely, the faucet still running from her attempts at a bath, and her still muttering to herself in the other stall.  

I was initially annoyed.  I really had to pee.  Like, sat there for 2 hours drinking free refill after free refill of iced green tea had to pee.   And I really hadn't intended to walk practically into a half-nude, floppy-breasted, odiforously ripe homeless woman in the bathroom.  It's a bit of a shock, just so you know if you've never experienced it yourself.  I thought to myself, "she could have at least found a place that only had a single stall toilet so she could have locked the door." 

But as I walked home, I started to wonder.  What is her story?  What led her to that moment and that utter indignity of being caught trying to clean herself in a restaurant bathroom?  Surely it will impact her more deeply and far longer than it will me.  I started to feel ashamed that I'd said nothing to her, didn't tell her not to be embarrassed, didn't try to ease her own sense of shame at the situation, because I was too shocked to find words--or to even know what to say.  How I wish I'd said something, anything to let her know that I wasn't judging her.  But?  For a few seconds, as it was happening, I think I kind of did judge her.  And that's the most shameful thing of all for me.

I find myself now wondering how to prepare Ethan to deal with the diversity of the human experience that he will surely face as he grows up.   There is nothing in the parenting books about "how to teach your child to react to a naked homeless lady in a restaurant bathroom."  So you kind of have to go it alone in figuring it out, know what I mean?   I want to teach him to have compassion and to show compassion for people who are less fortunate than him.  But how to do that when my own first reaction to this situation wasn't one of compassion?  I wish I could go back now, take a few breaths and find my voice to tell her that it's okay, and that I'm sorry that I caused her such embarrassment.  Amidst all of the lessons I try to teach Ethan,  it is a wake-up call to realize that I am still learning, too. 

Life is Like a Box of Stuff I Packed in a Hurry

You never know what you're going to get.

So the big move is in fourteen days.  Two Saturdays from today, the car will be crammed full of Ethan, the cats, Husband, me and whatever didn't make it into one of the 100+ boxes that were left in our garage after last year's move.  And Los Angeles will be getting farther and farther away in our rearview mirror.  

I started packing about a week ago.  I didn't pack for the move from Virginia to LA.   As a "I'll go along with this, but I won't be happy about it" statement, I, shall we say, strongly encouraged Husband to go on ahead and retain the service of packers as well as movers for the relocation.  I wanted to spend every last second I could with my friends in Virginia and while it was a totally spoiled-brat move on my part, I don't regret it.  When the packers walked in the front door, Ethan and I walked out the back door and went to play group--I can't regret giving Ethan every opportunity to play with the kids who had been his best friends for the past 1.5 years.  

Things are different now, though.  I've made friends here, no doubt.  As has Ethan.  All of whom we will miss something fierce when we pull out of the driveway a couple of Saturdays from now and drive off into the proverbial sunset.  But Ethan's in school now--that's where most of his friends are.  That time he's in school will give me more than enough time to pack and clean without worrying that I'm taking valuable bond-with-friends-before-it's-too-late time from him.    Ethan can bask in the pure bliss that is preschool--running around outside until his hair is sweat-soaked and he's red enough in the cheeks to need ice-packs, dressing up like a fireman, grappling with the other boys for the Thomas train and gluing, painting and playing hide & seek--while I leisurely build, fill, and tape shut box after box after box.  

I'm not stranger to packing.  From the time I left my childhood home to attend college until this house in Los Angeles, between houses, dorms and apartments, I've lived in twenty-one places.  Oh yeah, that's what I said.  Twenty-one.  So whether it was throwing cassette tapes in a milk-crate and a bunch of clothes into a trash bag, or carefully bubble-wrapping blenders and the fancy china, I've done it.  This isn't rocket science for me, or really even drudgery.  I kind of like figuring out how to make things fit in the box, re-arranging them until they are just right.  I like labeling boxes and feel like I've accomplished something if I only have to write something like "blankets" on the outside of a box.  Neat, simple, clear--this is what's in this box.  That's it--just blankets.  No surprises or odd junk you didn't know what to do with. 

Because what I hate about packing is those last few boxes.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  The ones where you throw everything that didn't seem to have a home or didn't fit neatly into any of the boxes you packed earlier.  The knick-knack someone brought you from their vacation that has never quite found a home in your decor, but that you can't get rid of.  The mail from the last week.  A book.  A screwdriver.  Three matchbox cars you found under the couch after the movers took it.  A cable wire that goes to...something.  Maybe. 

I hate all that crap.  But I can't seem to get rid of it because, you know, it could be important.  When I joked that I still had unpacked boxes in my garage from the last move, most people said, "Oh, how great! Just throw them out! Whatever is in there, you don't need it!"   And while it's absolutely true that I don't use my grandmother's high school diploma and awards on a daily basis (or on any basis, really), I can't bring myself to just throw them away, either.   Granted, I doubt that cable will ever reveal itself to be something as significant as a piece of history like my grandmother's diploma; but Husband might come to me someday and ask, "where is that cable?  You know?  The one that is totally irreplaceable and that we need to make everything in the house work?  Do you know where that cable is?"   And won't I feel like an ass if I've thrown it away?!  

So I know there'll be at least one of those boxes that drives me to drink as I throw stuff in it, and makes me scratch my head in wonder when it is time to write the label.   

love the dueling tails as the cats check out the view from the top of the up-ended guestroom mattress.

Echo, do you remember how we got up here?

ever so many boxes...

He'd like you to think he packed this himself.  He did no such thing.  

Look at all those little purple labels with the contents so neatly printed on them?  I'm guessing that will last for another 4-5 days before I start throwing things into boxes randomly and shoving bubble wrap on top, just in case. 

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Stupid Things Strangers say to Infertile Women...

when they don't know that they're infertile...

Scene:  Cashier at grocery store smiling at Ethan while she rings up our dinner of champions (frozen pizza--at least it was Annie's Organic, right--salad and pickles).

Cashier:  Is he your only? (smiling at Ethan's cute little antics) 

Me: Yeah, so far. 

Cashier:  Well, you'd better hurry up and have another one so he has someone to play with, or you're going to regret it! (laughter)

Awesome.  Happy Saturday to you, too.  I'll just take my useless ovaries and tumble-weed gathering uterus home with me now, with my pizza and pickles.  Where's the vodka aisle? 

Thursday, September 03, 2009

No Skeletons in My Closet...

or clothes, for that matter.  

Turns out I don't wear the clothes from my closet very often.  A quick run through today convinced me that my mom and I could indeed, with still three weeks to go before we move, pack my entire closet.   That doesn't really say much for how I dress myself, does it?  All those pants?  In the box.  The skirts?  In the box.  Dressy shirts?  In the box.  Dresses? In the box.   Just leave me my jeans and my drawer full of t-shirts, mom.  I'll be all set for weeks with just those.

This is quite a revelation to me.  I mean, I knew I'd be quite a case for Stacy and Clinton if anyone would ever freaking take a hint and nominate me already for What Not To Wear (*cough* Husband *cough*).  But I didn't realize I was quite as shoddy a dresser as I actually am.  This is really the first time it's occurring to me that I have my own Mom Uniform.  T-shirt and jeans.  That's it.  End of story.   The fact that my mom and I could (okay, mostly my mom.  I can admit it) could pack up every single thing in my closet if kind of depressing me.  

It's not that I don't look in my closet--I do.  Every day.  And sometimes I even try on a skirt (with a t-shirt) or a cute shirt (with the jeans).  But almost inevitably I end up looking in the mirror and finding something to be uncomfortable about with whatever article of clothing isn't the Mom Uniform approved one generally ends up in a heap on the floor and I go running back to the tshirt or the jeans that are missing.   And then I'm back in my comfort zone.  

Maybe I'm not different from many other moms.  At least I've graduated from yoga pants and tshirts--although, now that I say that, I'm not sure why it merits an "at least" because yoga pants are pretty much the perfect article of clothing.  I just won't wear them because the jeans hide my leg-chub better.  And?  I haven't done yoga in about 6 years, so wearing the pants is really sort of false advertising, right? 

So fine.  I am a mom hag.  I have a Mom Uniform, I don't wear makeup nearly often enough.  I have worn out two pairs of flip-flops this summer alone.  And sometimes I look in the mirror and notice that I've got this weird little cowlick on the left side of my hair that only shows up when my hair is in dire need of a shampoo.   In the city of beautiful people and women who have a 5-hour getting-ready-in-the-morning routine, I have become a complete and utter slob.  

But, here's the thing.  I DO own cute clothes.  I DO own a lot of make up (please, I have a little tiny orgasm every time I walk by a Sephora, of COURSE I have lots of make up).  I used to dress up every day.  When I was a teacher, my students used to compliment my shoes ALL the time.  I was "the teacher with the cool shoes" (among other things, I'm sure). Hell, I am of the generation of girls who caused the hole in the freaking ozone layer with all of our Aqua-Net hairspray.  I had bangs of steel, dammit!  Why am I not not wearing my cute clothes and my make up???!!!  

Perhaps when we moved here, I figured there was no way I could keep up or compete with the extreme beauty of Los Angeles (which I have since mostly just ends up looking like a lot of really shocked, fat-lipped older ladies fighting the good fight).  Maybe I let my appearance go (with the exception of my kicky 'do) so that I wouldn't look like I was trying to compete or keep up.  If I faded into the background, no one would say, "Do you see that woman over there trying to look cool?  Oh, that is so sad!"  I suppose it's possible. 

But, if there's one thing about moving I find fascinating, it's the ability to "redo" yourself in a way that introduces you to the new environment so that you're just a leeeeeetle bit different than who you were in the last place.  Not like witness-protection plan different, but subtle changes that bring out the you you've always wanted to be a little bit more. 

My first attempt at this was in 9th grade.  I entered high school wanting to stand apart from who I was in junior high.  Because, seriously.  Doesnt' everybody?  I didn't want to be just Sarah.  There was, for the first time ever, another Sarah in my grade.  Gah! The idea of being the second Sarah.  No, thank you.  So I decided on my first day of school that I was going to combine my first and middle name, thereby making me SarahBeth.  I told everyone to call me that (I realize this is generally the behavior of a four year old who comes home and tells you her name is now Princess Imogene Prettypants, and you are only to call her that from now on, but whatever).  

Needless to say, it didn't really stick.  Teachers cocked their heads when I request to be called SarahBeth, looking down at the roster and back up at me.  "But it just says Sarah".  Ugh. Fine.  So I tried with my old friends--if they'd do it, it would certainly catch on and then everyone would be calling me by my new, more unique name.  But wouldn't you know it, they, too, looked at me like a second and third head were sprouting up from my shoulders and that was the end of that.  No way were my new friends going to call me SarahBeth when my old friends AND teachers called me just plain Sarah. So that dream of a mini-reinvention pretty much never got off the ground.  

But perhaps, just maybe, when I get up to our new house, as I unpack my clothes, and I'm hanging up my skirts and dresses and girly tops in the closet, I will try to picture myself wearing the cute stuff, the stuff that makes me feel pretty and not just ho-hum mom.  And maybe I start pushing myself to wear something other than the uniform.  

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood...well, sort of

By "roads," I mean preschools.   In the midst of all the packing and moving riggamaroll, we are attempting to pick a preschool for Ethan.  One to replace the sweet little synagogue preschool he attends now, with the most adorable little friends and the sweetest teachers and the director who has already betrothed her granddaughter to Ethan.  It's not going to be easy.  I've been up weighing pros and cons since 3am, interwebs.  I'm *this* close to researching what it would cost to relocate our current school, the teachers, and all families involved, to our new town (and purchasing the correctly number of Lotto tickets to make paying for it all seem less absurd) just so I don't have to make this decision.

When we were all up north looking for a new house, Ethan and I spent a day visiting a couple different preschools.  Both connected to temples.  Both lovely.  Neither in our actual town, basically the same 20 minute drive for each, but in opposite directions.  One standing on it's own in the middle of nowhere, but vast and lush and beautiful.  One tucked into a fully developed neighborhood, near other schools and things like Starbucks and Whole Foods.  One has a turtle for a class pet.  One has plastic sushi in the play kitchen.  One facility is a bit older.  The other still has that "new classroom" smell to it and the toys are all brand-spanking-new.  One has a jungle gym.  The other does not. One closely adheres to a Reggio Emilia based philosophy.  The other is more your run of the mill "preschool is so kids can play and socialize and learn how to cooperate and prepare for school," operation. 

The problem is, I like them both.  This rarely happens.  And when it does, I am usually completely torn up about it.  I'm generally a one-stop shopper.  Need a new apartment?  Go see one.  Do I like it?  Yup.  I'll take it.  Need a job.  Go to an interview.  Offered the job.  Want it?  Yup.  I'll take it.  And I'm generally pretty happy with the outcome.  

There are of course instances where this isn't the case--in terms of life-partner, I certainly didn't settle for the first option.  If I had, I'd be married to Fritz Williams, my first boyfriend in 7th grade, who became my first boyfriend in 7th grade because he bought me a cool pink purse with white fish-netting over it and took me to Friendly's, where we split a Fribble.  And I'd be married to....Fritz. Kinda glad that fell through, you know?  And up until the time I met Husband, I certainly had choices as to who I did and didn't date.  Admittedly, the choice of who I would no longer be with was sometimes not my own (ie--dumped-ville), but thank goodness for that.  Because, you know, Husband wouldn't have ever come my way without having gone through all the emotional bullshit of my 20's. 

Colleges are another example of how I shopped around--after a college tour road-trip with my parents that took us from Pittsburgh to Indiana to Canada and back home again, I decided on the University of Pittsburgh, mostly because of it's kick-ass "Cathedral of Learning," which is a 30-something story building that looks like a gothic church, both inside and out, but is really classrooms, administrative offices and study spaces.   I never ended up studying much in there because there was never any room left by the time I got there--who could resist the allure of the vaulted stone ceilings and the soft marigold yellow lighting of the gothic chandeliers hanging down over each giant desk?  By the time I got there, they were all taken up.  But I definitely enjoyed making out with my boyfriend in the hidden stairwells while those other suckers were studying.  

But Pittsburgh, upon further investigation (and misery) was not for me. The allure of the Cathedral wore off (I mean, there was a freaking Roy Rogers in the basement--how romantic could it be?), the boyfriend slept with my roommate, my classes were 500+ people big and I never spoke one word to any of my professors all semester.  I headed back north to The University of New Hampshire, my main lesson of the semester I spent at the University of Pittsburgh being that I am not a good decision-maker when I'm given a lot of choices.  

I've carried that lesson with me since that time.  Growing up, I wasn't given a lot of choice over the major "things" in life.  I didn't choose my schools, or my house or the town I lived in or anything like that (not that I think a 5 year old should get to make such big decisions on their own, obviously).  Even choosing my own friends was a little bit of a touchy subject, if the powers that be thought that perhaps I was choosing incorrectly.  So I kind of went with the flow.  I didn't even really choose to spend the semester in London that I did.  Sure, I'm so glad I did; I'd never trade that time for anything.  But I hadn't wanted to go because I didn't want to leave my boyfriend behind for five months.  Let me tell you, when I brought this up to the powers that be, there was quite a talking to. And so, the choice I would have chosen was unchosen for me.  And that's okay.  It's more than okay because that boyfriend was eventually kicked to the curb anyway (or was I? hrm).  So thank goodness the powers that be put their foot down.  But still.  The overall lesson leading up to and during college was, "just pick something and go with it.  Too many options just confuses everything and you end up making the wrong choice."  

So as a mother, charged with the responsibility of making the right decisions for my child?  People, on any given day my head could just explode under the weight of it.  Picking a pre-school should NOT induce the same levels of stress as deciding on a college or a career or a life partner.  But I am acutely aware that the school we choose, the tone of the "education", the attitude of the director, the toys and activities made available to him, and the kids he encounters there, will go a long way in shaping who he becomes, at least in these early years of school.   Who do I think will take better care of him?  Which teacher seemed more loving and patient?  Which program will be the most stimulating for him?  Which one can we afford with the least amount of pain? Which one best fits into our ideal of "perfect" preschool? 

It's pretty absurd, now that I see it written out in front of me.  JUST PICK ONE, YOU NEUROTIC FREAKSHOW!!! is probably running through your head as you hit the "back" button on your browser.  I get it.  He'll be happy at either place.  He'll play.  He'll make friends.  He won't be scarred for life if you go with the place that doesn't have the pet turtle.  He could care less if you pick the place with the older, more worn toys--they're still toys to him.   

I just can't help but thinking the "what if"'s of it all.  What if he's not happy?  What if the other school was the right one after all?  How will that change or effect who he is?  You know---what if I had stayed at UPitt?  Or if I'd gone to Oberlin?!  What if I'd married my high-school sweetheart instead of Husband?  What if I'd actually believed in myself enough to say, at 18, "I'm going to be a writer,"? 

Of course, I don't want any of those things.  Making any one of those choices would have forever changed the course of my entire life.  I would not be who I am today, married to Husband, mother to Ethan, preparing to move to Northern California, where I've always wanted to live, writing this blog.   These are things I would never change--the thought of any other life for me is painful to consider.  So I'm glad for all the roads that were chosen for me and for the ones that I chose for myself, even if there were some wonky missteps along the way.  

I just hope that someday, Ethan looks back and is equally satisfied with the decisions that were made for him in these early years, and that he loves who he becomes through having experienced them. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Switched at Birth

If he weren't such a freaking carbon copy of his father, I swear sometimes I'd wonder if this child of mine hadn't somehow, in those first hours  of life, been switched at birth.  You know, when I was doped up on morphine, totally unaware of the fact that I'd even given birth yet, and he was three floors down in a NICU incubator (who's bitter? not me! no sirree!).  But, as I said, he does look exactly like his father, and the hospital did have those identifying wrist bands that have to be matched up before you can even set eyes on the baby and have to be removed with a blow-torch upon leaving the hospital (those newborn protective eye shields are wicked cute), so it's probably truly unlikely. 

Let's consider.  There's the apparent lack of passion for all things food related (perhaps with the exception of fruit leather--Ethan would live on nothing else if we let him).  At three and almost a half years old, he still tips the scales at a feather-weight 25-ish pounds.  I've given up fretting about it completely and have come to realize it is because of all of that moving around with the speed and perseverance of an hummingbird on crack and the not eating, well, really anything.  But that's him.  It's how he's always been.  It is so NOT Husband or me.  We're pretty much up for eating whenever, wherever.  Husband would live on steak and potatoes and I'd happily never eat anything but a carbohydrate ever again.  And, erm, it shows.  Between us, we could stand to lose the weight of a second grader.  So, watching this human being that we created between us challenge Nicole Ritchie in a "Who can show more ribcage-match" is baffling.  

Even more baffling, is Ethan's blossoming love of numbers.  If you know anything about me (either personally or from reading the blog), you know that numbers and I are not exactly close.  We just don't "get" each other and long ago parted ways (sometime around the introduction of long division).  For years, up until my junior year of college to be exact, people kept trying to get us into the room together to talk it out and try to understand each other's languages, but to no avail.   I can admit that I have about as much chance of understanding anything mathematical that goes beyond simple addition/subtraction/multiplication/division as a fruit fly does of being able to comprehend a text on macro-economics, written in any language, really, but for the sake of emphasis, let's say, Swahili.  Just not going to happen, friends. 

But Ethan, who has been counting for quite some time now, has in the past few days decided to get his whole body into the act--or at least his fingers.  He has started figuring out how to show 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 using his fingers.  And much like when he was learning to stand up, or walk, it has taken over his entire world.  Games are interrupted so he can show me he has 2 cars in his hand, by holding up two fingers.   If he sees a car like Husband drives as we walk down the street, he says, "Look Mommy! One daddy car!!" and holds up his pointer finger proudly. I keep expecting him to bust out in a "Ha Ha Ha Ha" like The Count on Sesame Street.   

My favorite is the number 3; watching a 3 year old try to figure out how to get his thumb to hold down his pinky is priceless.  

Watching him is, at once, clearly the most enthralling thing ever--watching a little kid learn new things and acquire a new skill puts a lot of things in life into perspective for me, especially in terms of my level of gratitude for all I can do; it is also terrifying in a way, because I realize that some day--he's going to know more than me.  Be able to do more than me.  There's going to come a time, sadly sooner rather than later, when he's going to walk up to me with his math homework, ask me to help him and I won't have the knowledge to be able to.  

What if he thinks less of me when he realizes that his level of knowledge in a certain area has exceeded mine?  Will he start to think, "wow, my mom really didn't do anything but stay home with me and bake cupcakes.  She can't even help me with my fractions."  I mean, later on, I'll be able to help him analyze the crap out of Shakespeare.  But fractions?  Decimal points?  And....ratios?  It's embarrassing how it all jumbles together in my head when I see it.  No can do. 

But for now, I'll take some deep breaths, be grateful that Husband gets all things numerical, so at least Ethan will have the help he needs when the time comes.  And I'll tuck away this memory from tonight and save it with all of the other precious ones:  Ethan falling asleep, eyes closing, breath evening out into sleep, his fingers ever so slightly bending themselves into 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 formations and his lips moving every so often to count out loud until he drifted off.