Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Novelty of Weekend Togetherness

Friday, Carl's mom and stepdad took us out to sushi.

Sushi: A delicate, thoughtful, precise dining experience full of subtlety and grace.

Unless it is served buffet style. There is something really, really wrong about shoveling a whole plate heaped with complicated, hand-rolled sushi into your gob in under seven minutes, and then going back for seconds. And thirds. And fourths, especially if those fourths contain little squares of cake spread with green tea cheesecake stuff. OH MY GOD THAT WAS GOOD.

By "really really wrong," I of course mean "TAKE ME HERE ON MY BIRTHDAY FOREVER."

Wendy mastered eating sticky rice with chopsticks. Also, watermelon with chopsticks. She is a delicate flower. Full of subtlety. Grace.

Saturday, Carl suggested that we finally take my sewing machine down to King of Prussia to the Vac n Sew where I get it serviced, like I've been talking about for three or four years. I abashedly explained to the older gentleman repair guy that my bobbin casing was broken, which had thrown off the timing of the machinery, and the whole needle-end was packed with thread and fabric lint, and that the machine hadn't been serviced in....I don't know....three or four years? "I ride this baby kind of hard." I expected reprimands (like those that I expect when I bring my Ford Exploder in to the shop when it is again exploding through no fault of my own); but he just said, "Cool. That's good. Better than letting it rust and die in the attic." After dropping the machine off, I dragged Carl and Wendy to Trader Joe's, where we purchased a few items to improve our tree-hugging, wind power-loving, granola munching cred. The guy at the cash register had an insane mohawk. Wendy gave him the kind of skeptical look that said, "have you made your point? Great. Now get a real haircut, Zippy." Carl and I tried to show her that guys with mohawks who work in hippie stores are cool by talking to him like he wasn't sporting a ridiculous head, but she was less than impressed. In fact, I think she was embarrassed by us.

Dear Wendy,

No hippie is complete without blue chips, hummus, and herbal dietary supplements. Our dietary supplements of choice? Ginko and Spirolina. According to Wikipedia, the health benefits of Ginko and Spirolina are ENDLESS.

Carl: "Three layer hummus? What is the green layer?"
Mo: "I didn't really read the fine print. They had me at Three Layer Hummus."
(it turns out that it is Zesty Cilantro! SCORE!)

We celebrated our acquisitions with supreme nachos at the Mexican place down the strip from Joe's.
Sunday (yesterday), we hung out at home. It rained all day. We snuggled on the couch, watched Wall-E, and made cookies.

In celebration of life being good, and our weekend not being the pit of unfulfilled expectations that it usually is, here is a picture of Wendy in a poncho:


Friday, April 16, 2010

The Maltese Starling

So, no shit, there I was.

The guys were working late again, and I was worn down to the nub from a day of Wendy pecking me to death with her questions and songs and lookatmelookatmes. I had a kid, a teenager, a baby-daddy, and a hippy to feed, and I was a gamut of emotions, from A to B.

I started dinner, anyway, and things were starting to look up. I was riding the euphoric crest of the SuperMommy wave. The cards were all falling right, and there was a nice pile of blue and yellow chips on the table.

For bright, shining moment, I was that hill of beans I knew I could be-sauteing mushrooms for my fancy coq au vin with one hand, paying our unpaid Comcast bill over the phone with the other, shouting directions to the Duck on the potty: "Turn on the light! Now Wipe! Three squares is fine! Yes you CAN. You're a BIG GIRL now!"

And then this bird flew into the kitchen.

Flew down the chimney in the living room and into the kitchen. A bird.

Of all the kitchens in all towns in all the world...

This was a bird like any other bird, only more so. It was diving and swooping around my head, feathers flying, and crashing into the windows, and leaving little splats of bird grease all over the glass. It flew at the stove, and I threw my phone at it. So much for the Comcast bill.

The cats were suddenly everywhere all at once-skittering over the counters, leaping over each other, flinging themselves into space with claws (or paws) flying. Chaos.

You learn a lot in this crazy, mixed-up world of Stay-at-Home Mommying. You learn that sometimes, you're not playing a game of life; life is playing you, with a deck of marked cards, and the stakes aren't any blue and yellow chips. They're dynamite, see? Dynamite strapped to flying birds in your kitchen.

You learn that life will slap you in the face and you'll take it....and like it.

Because when your elegant feast is in peril, and your kid is hollering "Who's in trouble? Why are you yelling fuck? Don't say shit, Mommy! WIPE ME!" and you are holding back a ninety-pound dog while trying to fling an afghan over a BIRD IN YOUR KITCHEN... have an epiphany.

Nobody is coming to your rescue. No one is putting you on a plane to anywhere, not today, not tomorrow...but that's good. No one to save you means you get to be the hero.

And I got this, baby. I'll bag the bird and wipe the kid and cook the food and herd the cats. I'll feed everyone, put the food away, pajama my Duck, and Windex the feather grease. Later, I'll go pick the broken vase out of the herb garden where I knocked it whilst wrestling the window open with one hand. I will laugh out loud at the teenager's outrage over the internet being cut off for 48 hours.

And then I'm having a drink, because I'm one hardboiled skirt who deserves one.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ann M. Martin

Ann M. Martin was at my local independent book store on Friday.

If you have never been an eleven year-old girl obsessed with the Babysitters Club books, this will not interest you. But, once upon a time, I was. I read over a hundred of this woman's formulaic, terrible books. I popped them like tic-tacs. I had boxes of them cluttering up my room, and for many years, refused to give them up. Which led me to this point in my life, standing in front of a thin, sweet, librarian-looking lady, with this coming out of my face:

"I spent so many hours of my life with you and even my mom knows all of the characters in your books, because I used to stand in the kitchen while she was cooking and ramble on and on about every single story that I read, and you probably drove her crazy, and you don't even know me or her and now I'm an English teacher, and its because I love books because of people like you and I love you and I just want you to know that."

The bookstore held a half-hour of Q&A just for teachers, and offered Act 48 credit. I had to take Wendy, and was nervous about it, but hey, I need every hour I can get. (I will lose my teaching certification in October unless I get in another bunch of hours in by then.) So I sat there in my jeans, amongst these other teachers in professional clothes, with Wendy on my lap. I realized later that I had a bright green sticker on my shirt, around boob-level.

Ms. Martin looks like a first-grade teacher. Or, like I said, a librarian. She has a very soft, kind voice and gentle way about her...and she is apparently a writing machine. Around 250 little tween-read books to her name. She's not, like, a master wordsmith, or anything, but you have to be impressed by how prolific the woman is.

I wanted to ask her about the impact of the Harry Potter boom on the young adult literature world as felt from an established author's perspective, but I didn't. She probably would have been too mesmerized by my neon nipple sticker to answer intelligently anyway. Wendy drew quietly in a notebook the entire time, because she is awesome. Also, I bribed her with a lollipop.

After the teacher's session, I wandered around, absent-mindedly picked up and put down books, followed Wendy around the children's section for a while, and then swooped in on Ann M. Martin when I saw that she was not surrounded by little girls and women in suits.

I probably creeped her out. In fact, I probably creeped the entire store out. I actually have no idea how long I was there. The owner asked me if I needed help three or four times. When I get into a book store, I get this kind of gauzy glazed-over feeling, which I'm sure looks kind of unstable and shifty from the outside.

Looks unstable and shifty. Looks.

Anyway. YAY! I met someone famous! Prepubescent bookworm girls everywhere, envy me!!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Rain, Rain, Wash it Away

Last night, it rained.

We have had the windows open in our bedroom for the past few nights, and the windows in the hallway, too. The breeze is intoxicating, after a winter of being sealed in for warmth...after months of stale heat and dark mornings.

Carl and I have not been sleeping very well. We are neck-deep in this land war with the man who was supposed to sell us our house this year. On the surface, it is all paperwork. Title companies and signatures and loan requirements and certified letters crossing each other in the mail.

On the surface, it is an cold game of chess. The pieces are made mostly of paper, teetering fortresses of files and insubstantial, pale figures that ride through the edges of the playing field...cardboard-cutout knights who can save you or slay you with one slash of a pen. They make a move move; we make a move. Pretty cut-and-dry. No dramatic scenes in courtrooms. No impassioned speeches. No winning of talent shows to raise $20,000 in a weekend. In the end, we will shuffle the right piece of paper and win, or we will run out of moves.

Under the surface, it is not so simple.

Our roles seem to change with every new development, and it is hard to know where we really stand. Are we the Kings and Queens today? Or are we the pawns? It turns out that the uncertainty is the same. You can't see the whole board, no matter who you are, and it isn't as easy to sacrifice the castle when you've planted the gardens there, yourself.

At night, we snuggle into bed with Wendy, secure for the moment in the company of each other. We know that this, really, is our home. Me and Carl and Wendy and Erin. Wherever we are. We know that. But we don't sleep. We have restless dreams. Carl wakes up and roams the house in the wee hours, and I take forever to drift off. I lay with my mind turning it over and over, staring at the columns of numbers in my head...

the savings account
plus the profit from this job he's on now
minus the income taxes that he owes
minus the appraisal fee
minus the bills
plus my tax return
plus the first installment on his next job
minus the lawyer's deposit
plus next month's teaching hours
minus the closing costs
...does it equal a house?
...if we add it up right, do we get to stay?

Last night, it rained, and I slept.

I half-woke sometime during the storm, and I almost got up to close the windows. Instead, I listened to the rain. I breathed in the clean air. I threw my arm across Wendy and rested my hand on Carl's back. The ink ran from my hovering math problems. The numbers droplets streaming away from melted paper-mache palaces...

Then, I slept hard, all the way through til morning, with no dreams.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Darling Buds of April

Finally! Flowers! Leaves! Grass and other growing things that are greeeen!! (Sorry, all of you CO people, still with the snowing.)

We can finally go to the park! I don't have to tell Wendy that it's too cold or rainy or muddy or generally crappy out to go! I suppose I'd better shave my legs....

Or, I suppose I should have shaved my legs before I took Wendy to the park the other day. Before I had that delightful conversation with a hot park dad, only to realize after he walked away that my fuzzy ankles were fully visible, poking out from the bottom of my pants the entire time we were talking and having torrid eye sex.

Damn. For about five seconds there, I thought I was a hot park mom. Instead, I am a crazed, unkempt park vagrant, milling around the picnic benches and creeping out the other parents. Hot Park Dad will go home to his Hot Wife and tell her about the weird lady with the eye twitch who was talking to him, but he doesn't remember what she said, because he couldn't stop looking at her furry troll ankles.

Meh. That's probably what I deserve. (HI HON! LOVE YOU!)
Wendy is addicted to our swing. Now that the mud has dried up, we are out there two or three times a day. BTW, this is so not a posed picture. It is totally legit. Just Wendy and I having a geeky, entirely authentic moment of Springtime happiness:

Okay, actually, my mom was trying to get a shot of me pushing her on the swing, and this picture happened after I tired of her directions to "stand in the middle" and "move over" and "swing her slower so I can get you both in the shot!"

After looking at this picture some more, I have decided that I definitely need a haircut. I don't think I've had one since October. Of 2008.
After several long conversations about Springtime and rain and flowers, Wendy demanded that we plant something. We picked out some seed packets and planted them in random places about two weeks ago, and the sprouts are just beginning to poke up out of the dirt.

As far as she is concerned, this is a very cool experiment in horticulture. We are both hoping for massive bushes of color to erupt from our various planting locations. I like the flower box idea, because I can move them around. One week, my front steps can have a flower 'fro. The next week? Flowers over by Duke's fenced-in area. You know, because it is important to beautify the poo yard.

This may be the extent of our gardening this year. Maybe some more herbs. I love me an herb garden. Our oregano has begun to emerge, already, which is awesome. Wendy likes to go out and grab handfuls of the stuff, eat a few leaves, and put the rest away to dry "for meatballs." She is totally going to be the next Food Network Star. I promise.

You have probably noticed that I really don't have a point to this post, except to share my exuberance for being able to wear tank tops and go outside again.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

On Whining About my Fat

First of all, it's not like I have two pint of Hagen Daas hidden in the freezer behind bags of peas and those "thaw and bake" loaves of bread dough that Carl bought six months ago so we could have "homemade" bread. Yeah, that bread dough? NOT getting baked any time soon.

BUT, if you decided to make that bread? If you moved that frost-bitten bag of dough torpedoes? There would not be a pint of Butter Pecan and a half-eaten pint of Bailey's Irish Ice Cream with bites taken out of the carton because that shit is just so delicious. Just sayin.


I am not here to whine about my fat. Never fear. It is not interesting to me to listen to that BS, either. (Especially from my gorgeous 16 year-old stepdaughter who is still troubled about going from last year's size 2 to this year's size 5.)

I don't actually fear catching a glimpse of my naked body in the reflection of the shower handle. It is a body that has produced and fed a baby. It is a body that is 28, not 18. I get it. It is actually still a nice enough body, in the right stretch pants.

I would just like it to be better. Stronger! Less smooshy around the edges in every way! More able to fit into the jeans that it wore last year, without the rending of fabric or the snagging of my flesh in the zipper.

We eat pretty healthily around here. Our refrigerator contains drawers full of vegetables and raw foods and omega 3 fatty acids. (That fatty acid drawer is a bitch to clean, lemmetellyou.) There is not a preponderance of junk. Probably the worst sins committed upon our children are hot dogs and ramen noodles. Possibly a freezer pizza now and again. I have a thing for rosemary and olive-oil Triscuits, which have a lot of salt in them.

It actually helps that we just can't afford junk food. When you can either buy a bag of oranges or a box of cookies, but not both, it's pretty easy to not be an idiot about that. (The Hagen Daas pints were BOGO, and somehow fell into my cart while I was angry/hungry shopping. DONT JUDGE ME!)

I have even cut out my self-soothing baking habit in effort to improve our collective diet. Carl has a baked-goods-shaped hole in his heart where previously there had existed banana bread and chocolate chunk cookies. He casts mournful glances at the oven, like this:

....and has suggested that, though he does not now love me less, he would probably love me more if there were baked goods.

Our problem is that we don't move around enough. Carl is too beat from work to actually do more physical activity in his free time (har har), and I just haven't figured out that thing that will work for me that is also free. If we had sidewalks, we would walk. But we live in the windy-twisty country road land of imperiled pedestrians.

Any ideas? Anyone giving out free bikes?