Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Doogie Howser, Esq. (aka: Mama Got Lawyered by a Four-Year-Old)

I may have mentioned before that my elder daughter is one of those kids like you read about. Her diet consists of carbs, cheese, and fruit. And chicken nuggets. I swear, when she was a baby, she ate EVERYTHING. (So don't blame this shit on me, uppity foodie-mom bloggers.) Like her sister now, she would happily down whatever you put in front of her, and then ask for more: Parnips? Great! Saurbrauten? Delicious! Grilled salmon? YAY CAN I HAZ SECONDS???

Right around her 2nd birthday things started to change. She discovered that she had a measure of control, directly surrounding her plate. And she loved it. She gleefully wielded her veto power over everything green, non-vegetarian, non-cheese-based. And for the most part this has been OK. Annoying, but OK. She'll happily drink smoothies that contain spinach or kale or whatever - I don't have to add the greens under cover of night, even -- and is everso slowly, as we leave behind the reign of terror that was THREE, she is adding new things to her menu. Green beans, carrots, chicken burgers. So, yeah, it'll be fine, I tell myself. My brother ate nothing but chopped sirloin and spaghetti for about 3 years of his life and he is a strapping fellow with good teeth and a shiny coat and all that, I tell myself.

But one area over which *I* have very little control plagues me yet: the school lunch. The girls' daycare offers a kid-friendly, fairly nutrious meal every day. And we the parents are expected to provide snacks, which is also no problem, though I am spending a small fortune on Kashi bars and portable yogurts and such (entirely my own fault: I am lazy and don't clip coupons and can't abide going to more than one store to bargain shop). HOWEVER. My picky girl recently confessed that she is bringing her snack into the lunch room with her teacher's permission, and is eating her snack foods instead of lunch, most days. And then she gets something from the snack cabinet of the school, as many of the other kids do, and also a share of the cooperatively provided fruit, for her afternoon snack.

ARGH I SAY ARGH. Snacks all day long make me go ARGH. I am sure her caloric and vitamin-ic needs are being met. She's growing and her teeth are not rotting out of her head but here I must draw a line in the sand. I have a bee in my bonnet. Etc. So this morning Little A. and I had a little debate.

OK, says I. We are putting these things in your lunchbox for SNACK. They are SNACKS for SNACKTIME and only for SNACKS. You eat the lunch that daycare provides for LUNCH at LUNCHTIME, yes?

She replies, But Miss A. said it was ok for me to bring my lunchbox in and have this food anytime!

Then me: That might be what your teacher said, but Mama is saying what is in your lunchbox is for SNACK and the lunch food that daycare serves is for LUNCH. I will tell Miss A. this lunchbox is snack-only stuff.

But Mama! 

And then she delivers the death-blow of logic. This is called a LUNCHBOX. Why is it called a LUNCHBOX if I can't have the food for LUNCH?

Dudes. I was stumped. I stammered. Well, maybe we need to call this a snackbox yes let's call it a snackbox and then it's your snack...box. She just looked at me like, yeah, right. She spared me the eyeroll, but then ate her go-gurt on the way to school and carried her food-carrier into her classroom with an air of triumph.

(And here's the humblebrag conclusion you've been waiting for....)

Yes. This is going to haunt me, but I am so proud. She outwitted me! With a contextual definition! And I am so very screwed. Because I have gotten dumber with each year and each child. And they are going to keep getting smarter. There is not enough coffee in the world to catch me up to the fast-firing synapses of a shiny new brain. Help.

xoxo, A

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Prodigal Panties

Or, I pretty much forgot how to exhale last week so writing something even remotely off-topic was impossible but this really did happen so you get to hear all about it now. 

So I have mentioned before that the girls go to daycare in a church. This is fairly, but not terribly, weird for me: they come home with Bible study drawings in their backpacks and both adore saying their blessing in the car. Well, baby G gleefully chimes in on the AAAAAAH-men! but Little A. proudly recites the whole thing* while compelling her sister to hold her hand from across the bench seat. It's...mostly harmless, as far as I can tell. They are learning lessons in gratitude, courage, humility, and sharing, which is never bad so I am not so incredibly concerned with the larger context. Tim is a confirmed atheist and has a harder time with it than I do. If they start bringing home anti-choice or gay-bashing pamphlets, we'll change things up, is my opinion. But a just little bit of Jesus, applied correctly, never hurt anyone. Right?

Anyway, this post is not meant to discuss my kids' spiritual upbringing. This post is meant to discuss my rogue underpants.

One morning last week we all got up a little bit earlier than usual, got our act together a little faster than usual, and got on the road before schedule. Ya'll know a smooth morning is somewhat of a miracle and deserves notice. So notice it I did, and thanked both of the girls for such a nice morning before I dropped them and gave the good-bye kisses and hugs and then the extra good-bye kisses and hugs and then the very-last good-bye kisses and hugs (which are the ones I can't resist and why I am always late for work and why it is lucky my children's grandfather is my boss). And strolled out into the parking lot to get into my car to drive off to the office.

On my short walk to the car, I noticed a little scrap of fabric on the ground, halfway between my car and the front door. Right in the middle of the parking lot, basically. The fabric looked oddly familiar. It was a pretty little pattern. How odd, some kid must have lost her doll's dress or something, I thought. I got closer and realized:

Wait. Those are my underpants. Those are my underpants right in the middle of a church parking lot, the little blue stripes and flowers on the boy briefs** looking inappropriately jaunty in the glare of the sunlit pavement.

What. What? WHAT??!?! HOW???!!!??!?!

I glanced around quickly and assessed. There was no one dropping-off at that moment and only one car was headed into a parking spot. No one would know it was my underwear if I picked them up right quick. Who knows how many parents or OMG maybe the pastor*** saw my underpants!

Anyway. I stuffed them into my pocket and proceeded to my car in the strangest walk-of-shame ever. As far as I can guess, the underpants must have been static-clung to somebody or other's pants or coat and happened to fall off right at that inopportune moment. I am thankful that it was in the parking lot and not inside one of the girl's classrooms, where Little A. would have had no hesitation in offering them up for an impromptu show and tell.

SO. Lesson learned: Check ye for rogue undergarments or mortification shall be yours. I can't think of a corresponding Bible verse (maybe there is something in the Book of Mormon, I know they have weird undergarment ideas) but I am still going to cross-stitch it onto a pillow.



*Thank you, God, for our food, our family, our friends and our teachers. Amen! 

**Little A. picked them out for me, on a Christmas shopping trip with Tim. This post just keeps getting better, right? Please don't call DHHS.

*** The pastor seems to be one of those cool-dude pastors. He drives a Jeep emblazoned with adventure-lifestyle stickers in the winter, and a Harley in the summer, and wears jeans. So maybe he is like a rock-star, totally cool with stray panties from heaven.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

So Good So Good So Good

On Monday the girls and I had a simple and perfect day. The sun was shining and strong enough for the first playground-without-coats adventure of the season. Little A. made best best friends with a girl named Lillia somewhere between the swings and the slide. Her mom and I chatted while the kids swirled around our legs. The other woman's accent was lovely and hard to place - a very slight Eastern European inflection that is rare around these parts. We are a fairly homogenous bunch, we Mainiacs. Anyway, their little family had to leave in a hurry when their youngest member started tantruming in anticipation of leaving, and I wasn't able to get any contact information. I felt a little bad about it, but also excited that my big girl was proving -- so unlike me -- to make friends easily and casually.

We came home for lunch, both girls napped while I did a little work, and then because it was so lovely and spring-y and because Little A has 20/20 vision for anything ice cream related, we went up to our local soft-serve institution for the first cone of the season (on our way home, in the midst of a busy intersection made busier by a huge construction project, she noticed CARS in the parking lot of the ice cream place. WHY ARE THERE CARS AT LIBS? she demanded to know. Our afternoon was decided in that moment).

Some good friends joined us in a DOUBLE BONUS move and after we said our hellos and when Little A. was out of earshot a bit, Brian said someone blew up the Boston Marathon. My heart stopped and my brain went in several directions before I said, intelligently, Huh? What? Is there not a shitton of security there? And how do you blow up a marathon? It's...you know...long? No one knew much at that point.

And so we had our ice creams and then went home for more outside fun with bubbles and in moments when the girls were otherwise occupied I stole glances at Facebook and the Boston Globe online. No one knew much then either but I needed information, information, more information. The sun was shining, and people were dying, and no one knows why.


I can safely characterize my relationship with that little city as "complicated." It was the center of the universe to us during high school, where all the coolest bands played and where you could buy the best posters/shoes/t-shirts. Then, after a stint in the midwest, I went to college there and lived there for a few years post-graduation but never quite clicked in with the place. I didn't understand its people, who seemed (mostly) so cold and unwelcoming, in comparison to the friendly city of Chicago which had been my home just prior; its public transportation, that shut down just when you needed it most; its bars, which tried so hard to be cool but just...weren't. I made a very small group of friends in college who then proceeded to shun me for reasons just beyond my grasp. I found a nice boyfriend and we moved in together, but it never felt quite right. And then I made a bunch of stupid, reckless choices and lost my mind for a bit. And then I slowly pieced it together and found a new clan and spiritual home at a local dance studio. And then there was 9/11.

The sun was shining that day, too. I remember the head of the literary agency where I was working running into our end of the office, out of breath, saying Oh god, just turn on the TV, turn on the TV. And we all watched in horror for a few minutes or an hour and then they sent us all home. No one knew anything at that point; there was no twitterverse to spread news true or false. Just this loop of footage no one of our lifetime will ever forget. I decided to walk home because the idea of an underground train was too scary. I walked up Boylston Street from the Commons to Copley, with my face in the sun. The city is very pretty, in parts, the parts you see on TV: the swan boats and the shining skyline and the wide river with scullers zipping along like skimmer bugs. I noticed all of that beauty on my walk and suddenly knew with an awful clarity that someone could destroy it all in a second. That someone had tried to destroy my most favorite American city. I decided during that long walk home that I was going to move to New York City. The sun was shining, people were dying, and no one knew why.


A couple of months before I moved, I was running errands downtown. I turned a corner and almost literally stumbled onto the finish of the Boston Marathon. It was very late in the day; the finishers were the slow runners. Or the walkers. Where I would be in a marathon, surely. But there was still a small crowd of onlookers cheering folks across the finish line. The Marathon, while a Super Big Deal in Boston, had never crossed my consciousness before. Huh, I thought, look how nice these Bostonians are being. That's weird. The only other time I remember open shows of support and joy in the city was when the Pats won the Superbowl in 2001. I stood watching the cheers and the folks collecting their medals and blankets for a minute or two, then gathered up my backpack and started to cross. Then a Boston cop said hey miss, you can't cross here and I probably scowled at him and went to go eat a bagel.  We've all seen the photos now. The chaos, the smoke, broken people hauled away in policeman's arms or on gurneys. Why, we are all asking. Why?


Why? Because a small but very determined group of people hate. They hate not-them. That's why. They hide behind stone walls and religion and conspiracy theories and the internet. 

During a chat with a friend, a far-away friend who is very dear, I had another epiphany. We are connected, but not connected. Not really. And I am far from the first person who has realized this but, whatever, it was my epiphany. Because of the internet, I can stay "connected" with my friends all around the country. Because of the internet, I can see what my high school crush had for breakfast. I can also, if I so choose, find a group of people who strongly believe that our President is a Caucasian-hating Muslim bent on destroying our nation. Or who believe that gay marriage will destroy the moral fabric of our society. Or that single mothers are worse for the same than prostitutition. On the internet, the old cartoon goes, no one knows you're a dog. I am personally culpable for allowing some of my relationships erode because I can "connect" on the internet. You know me: you read my blog, you saw my Facebook post, or my Instagram snap, you know me. I read you, too, so I don't need to call or write you a long email or make the effort to see you. I know your life.

But I don't. I can't walk up to you at the playground and see your face light up when my kids run to give you a hug. I don't see the pained reaction of the blogger who I decided it would be clever to point out misused a punctuation mark in an otherwise fine post. I don't see the look of disappointment from my friend who is a public policy expert is when I toss off a knee-jerk political statement on my Facebook page.

We don't see each other anymore, and it is way easier to not see. There was a brief interim of connection, a respite from ironic meanness, post 9/11, and now immediately post-each tragedy, there is a boom of helping, of reaching-out, of oneness and all that jazz you hear in your yoga class. But it's temporary, and crisis-driven, and we so easily sink back into our complacency, our chairs inside of rooms lit but the glow of screens.

It's not that I think if the terrorists, whomever they are, could see our faces, and hear our voices, and watch us love our children, they would suddenly stop thinking we are the enemy. It's more that all of these terrible recent events are making me want to connect, really. And to parent differently. To limit my own internet time and not let it bleed into bathtime, bedtime, dinnertime. To travel and live in different places instead of doing a Google image search. To visit our neighbors instead of sending an e-card. To go to museums and farms and beaches and the woods. To walk the streets in our own little city instead of driving everywhere. To make efforts to nurture relationships and to let my kids understand that it's worth it. To make sure they don't fear saying hello to their neighbors, or chatting with the person next to them on the bus, or approaching someone who really needs help, or walking up to the othergirl on the playground around their own age and say Hi, wanna swing with me?

We can give them all the lessons in the world about how to be safe and cautious, but when it comes down to it, I think perhaps a bigger danger is being too safe, too cautious. Don't walk in a park at night has been replaced by never ever ever talk to anyone unless you know them

I want my kids to be different. I want their world to be different. A smaller world, a more connected world. Maybe, just maybe, if we could raise a generation of people who really see each other, so they feel connected to each other and the world immediately around them, it will make it harder, just a tiny bit, for them to destroy the beautiful places others might hold dear. To destroy each other.

We'll see.

And in the meantime, I am sending all my love to my far-flung friends, in Boston and beyond, and holding my daughters a little tighter.

And sending up a prayer: Please be well, please let me see you for a long, long time.

xoxo, A

Thursday, April 4, 2013


So, it was like, 3 months ago that this happened, right?

How could it be a whole year? I can feel in my bones and my body and my heart (which are all old) the long stretch of days between the first terrified months after bringing her home and now, but if each year is going to go progressively faster what is going to happen when she is 6? Or 10? Or tween? I am scared.

One of her favorite things is "Freeze Dance!" and I would like to Freeze her. Just lift the needle off the record for a long moment or a few months so I can absorb and appreciate and memorize her Four-ness. She is a pain in the ass and won't listen to a word I say. She is hilarious and thoughtful and creative and feels everything so intensely. She (still) loves purple. She can pack her own snack and take herself to the bathroom and oh oh oh she is not a baby anymore, not even a little bit. Except for in the middle of the night, when she is scared and comes into my room. She drags a blanket and a stuffed friend across the floor and after a quick cuddle to calm the fears she climbs herself into the (way-too-small) pack and play next to my side of the bed and sleeps there until morning. Tim is not so keen on this habit, but I can't bring myself to make her stop.

In the mornings the baby comes in for her milks and then leans over the side of the bed to call her sister's name and wake her up. We are all delighted to see each other.

And then 5 minutes later someone pulls someone else's hair or beeps someone's nose too hard and then there are tears and someone is sent to her room or loses her TV privileges and cries and then needs a hug and then we all get dressed and have breakfast.

This was the first year Little A. really seemed excited for her birthday and all that surrounded it. Every night before bed we counted down the days to her party, and the days to her REAL birfday (the day after the party), on our fingers. She was eager to help with the cleanup and the shopping for the party. And especially eager to get at the presents that kept appearing in our entryway. So we are making a week of it. Last Friday she opened a present from my mom, her Nana, who winters in Florida, while we Skyped with my mom. Saturday was the arrival of her Grammie and Pop and a big-girls ONLY! manicure. Sunday was the super fun Fairy-Princess party and egg hunt and then Easter dinner at our friends Jenny and Brian's house (Jenny is Little A's favorite person). Monday was waffles, dance class, and more presents from Mama. Tuesday, she celebrated at school with a friend whose birthday is the day after hers. Last night, we had tacos and a dance party. Tonight, Tim is taking her out for a very special Daddy-Daughter Dinner Date. And there is one more present from the far-away land of Chicago making its way to us as I write. We're living in celebration station and no one really wants to leave.

So. Happy new year to my most favorite person in the whole wide world (first baby category).


xoxo, A