Friday, June 27, 2008

So Long as Men Can Breathe

The air is so heavy with humidity that you can see it. The Boss calls it "sozzy," which is the word that comes out when she means foggy but can't quite remember the F and the double G.

We were driving through a bucolic stretch of one of Connecticut's more sparsely populated areas on the way to swimming lessons. Green spread to gray underneath the haze. There was the wide swath of farmland to my left, then the treeline behind it, then the sheet of metal sky. It took my breath away and replaced it with wet heat. "This is so beautiful," I said out loud.

"You're so beautiful, too," The Boss piped up from the backseat.

"I'm so beautiful?" I startled slightly, the soft sentiment somehow sharp in my ears.

"Yes, you are so beautiful," she assured me. "You are."

I hadn't expected that. Me, in comparison to a summer's day. Not sweaty, fast and frazzled, but beautiful. My lips were buoyed by a slow grin as I lifted my gaze to the rear view mirror, where The Boss's big blue eyes met mine.

I melted into the compliment from my backseat bard.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bookstore Breakdown

We left Borders Books in a frenzy, the front desk sales associate leaping over the counter to push open the door for us. "Breakdown," he yelled to the customer just coming in through the other side of the entryway. "Hold the door!"

The Boss was hanging in half over my arm, her face to her legs as she spewed snot and tears on her kneecaps. I clutched her discarded shoes with three fingers of one hand as I used the other hand to steer Number Two's bulky stroller through the exit. The Boss was bucking and screaming; Number Two was discordant in his seat in front of us as I pushed him into the doorjamb and then pulled back with a jerk. I'm not sure if I croaked out a "thank you" to the startled people holding the doors.

When we crossed over into daylight, the sun barely registered with me. It should've been a thunderstorm as far as I was concerned. Maybe the crack-boom of static electricity would've drowned out the tantrum. I heaved a sigh and then hoisted The Boss off of me and onto the sidewalk so we could walk the rest of the way to the car. She crumpled to the beige concrete. She wailed. About what? Who knows. Who cares. She had ceased making sense somewhere back in the children's section, at about the time I told her we had to leave.

In front of Borders, from the ground, I pulled her to me again, her stomach pressing into my forearm while the sun bounced off a pink skorted behind that was pointed toward the heavens as if in supplication. I made our way across the parking lot. She kicked me and thrashed against the handles of the stroller. She screamed. Number Two screamed. We reached the car.

It took me ten minutes to get The Boss buckled into her seat. At one point I put my elbows on the roof of the car and leaned into the whiteness, my chin in my palms. She screamed below. Two twenty-somethings in sleeveless black frills and short white skirts flounced by, luxuriating in not being me.

The Boss found offense in everything during the drive home. On the the three occasions we passed a lake or a pond, she railed against them: "I don't like water! I said, I DON'T LIKE WATER!" I could barely make sense of the tirade as her saliva threatened to drown out her words.

Snoop Dogg came on the radio then with "My Medicine," his countrified ode to illegal pharm. I turned it up. The twangy beat and the cadence of Snoop's voice settled over us like a jacked up lullaby. Number Two liked it. In the rear view mirror, I saw The Boss was sticking to her guns. Her face blazed red with the force of anger.

The more dedicated, the more medicated, Snoop crooned. Can you feel me?

Monday, June 23, 2008

More Than an American Footnote

So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of.

I don't want to go around describing myself as a 'groundbreaker' or a 'difference-maker' because I'm not and I wasn't. But I contributed to people who were saying things that weren't supposed to be said.

- George Carlin

Last night I dreamed that the president was assassinated. When I woke up, it turned out George Carlin was the one who died.

To me, there are few personalities as interesting and important as those found in the footnotes of American legal history as they pertain to the first amendment. Larry Flynt. Howard Stern. George Carlin. They're interesting (love 'em or hate 'em) because of the things they say. They are important because they said them. Each one made an indelible mark on freedom of speech by constantly pushing the envelope containing the letter of the law.

If George Carlin's legacy was humor, it would've been enough. But he leaves even more. By putting those seven dirty words to the test, he showed that each one was worth fighting for, and that none of them can be taken for granted.

There's a lot to be said for that.


Friday, June 20, 2008

A Cold June in New England

I am very much a product of my New England upbringing. That is to say, I'm cold--like a November pilgrim alone in her one-room shanty mushing corn into meal. I don't tend to enthuse much with strangers. I'm slightly more animated with acquaintances. It's only with good friends (and preferably a few glasses of wine) that I begin to act like I give a good goddamn about those around me--at which point it becomes clear I'm no puritan.

When I was gestating my children, no stranger ever touched my stomach. I've heard many stories about such liberties being taken with pregnant women, but I never had to worry about it. Nobody whose name or face was unrecognizable to me would dare mention my condition, let alone feel around for it. It's like I wear a big sign flickering "UNAPPROACHABLE" in neon letters.

I belong to a mom's group where many of the members are transplants. Some are from the midwest, some from the west, others from further north. They are all very nice and quick to make friends so that, before long, it seems like they've always been here. That's well and good for them, but when they end up with all kinds of fun plans with all kinds of different people and I'm sitting at home with the family members who have no choice but to put up with me, it leaves me lamenting my roots and my subconscious determination not to weed them.

It's very hard for me to foster new friendships. I don't dig into people's pasts or predilections because I don't want to pry. I don't like asking for favors and thus it doesn't occur to me to offer them. I generally won't censor myself. I hate talking on the phone. All this comes together in an uneasy hospitality. I host play dates and visits from acquaintances, but it's usually only the friends I've had a long time who end up staying.

I don't know if I could change if I tried. I don't know where to start trying. How I've accumulated any friends at all is a mystery to me.

Some of the newest members to my mom's group are from England. They're supposed to be pretty reserved, right? Like, across the pond is where this region's particular brand of stuffiness was born. Maybe their True Englander status will be a good match to my New Englander status.

Although, if they really are like me, we'll never get to know each other well enough to find out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Realizing There's No Net

The thing about Number Two is that I know exactly how fleeting his infancy will be. I didn't have that awareness with The Boss. I guess I thought she'd be tiny forever. Certainly there was bliss in that ignorance, but what remains is a lack of memory for the details.

The rub of it is this: now that I understand the quickness, I've become so preoccupied with it that I still cannot enjoy the moment, what with all my fear for the remembering. I feel pressure to record everything, but this "everything" is so expansive that I don't know where to begin. Sometimes I don't. I get caught up in trivialities that are less daunting. Volunteer projects. Playdates. Yesterday I filled out a page and a half of Number Two's baby book and considered the effort a success.

But behind those everyday moments, my son still snuffles like a horse. He looks at everything with widening eyes that are, of course, turning hazel like his father's. His feet have outgrown all socks sized 0-3 months, even though that classification still fits the rest of his lean frame. More often than not, he smells stinky-sweet from a diaper that needs changing. He's often attached to my breast, hanging vertical, while I chase after something his sister needs--a drink, a snack, a pair of underwear pulled back up, a channel changed on the TV. Sometimes he looks so incredibly cute. Other times the plate of his forehead threatens to take over, and I can only hope that this kid has an unusually large brain. Like his father.

And that's the line. Between living and remembering. Right now I'm walking it like a tightrope, which is exciting if not a bit nauseating. Falling off is not an option; the only choice is getting used to the callouses where the wire bisects each bare foot.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I found out about San Diego Momma's PROMPTuesday via Slouching Mom. I've enjoyed reading SM's responses to the creative writing exercises and, this week, I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Go to SDM's site to read the prompt, and keep reading here to find my response. It's fiction.


The sky is midnight blue. Light leaks through the house’s picture window and it is blue, too, but more frenetic and kind of dazzling. I stand on the sidewalk, directly opposite the curtained panes. Azure shadows flicker on the colorless palette of grass. I wonder what she is watching on TV.

The trees have skeletal hands that bleed leaves. They are caught by the wind in cold eddies around my feet. The temperature doesn’t touch me as I imagine so much broken glass and its affect on the eerie color scheme pervading this late hour. Opening curtains, white light bathing pale skin, blue turning to black as Letterman deadpans onscreen.

No, not tonight.

It’s not real, me standing here now. Behind the curtains she is reclining on her faux suede sofa, underneath a down throw because she’s always cold, as she watches the flat screen with indifferent lethargy. Maybe a clock ticks, so ubiquitous that she no longer hears it. Maybe the heat kicks on, pumping hard to warm her cold blood. Maybe her phone rings.

Finally I feel it, the chill against my ear as I wait.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Connoisseur is Born

Evidently he prefers Sam Adams.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Unveiling

Welcome to the new and improved 24/7, courtesy of:

Shannon was a pleasure to deal with. She whipped out the design and helped me install it to my Blogger account in the span of one day. The final product is her telepathic rendering of my vision. It had to be telepathy, because I'm pretty sure I didn't make any sense when I tried to put into words the look I was going for. But no matter. Shannon can read your mind over email. That's how good she is.

But if you thought the new design is the only thing being unveiled today, you underestimated my desire to kill two birds with one title. Today, I lift the curtain on the New Guy's Name!

Before you make any assumptions about the winning name based on the fact that I created a poll and asked you all to vote in it, you have to know a couple things about me. One is that I don't generally go with the most popular choice in any given situation. The second is that I often disregard my gut instinct, only to return to it after a completely useless detour. What I'm trying to tell you is that the name I will use to refer to my new son from this point on is not the one that received the most votes in the poll (though it did come in a close second, which helped validate my decision). In fact, it's the very one I used when I first announced his fetal existence almost a year ago.

He will be Number Two.

At some point in my post-partum haze I decided the name was too condescending and juvenile. The Partner sometimes likes to say I've lost my sense of humor, and I've got to admit that for those first few weeks after having a baby, I really didn't appreciate sarcastic bowel movement euphemisms used in reference to my son. My exact words were: "the name denotes a second class status that I don't want to bestow upon my little guy."

I've since gotten over that. No words exist that can describe how close he is to my heart. So why not accept that fact, and have a little fun with the words we do have?

If Number Two is going to flourish in his new position, he needs to realize that if he doesn't do his own self-deprecating, someone else will always be there to deprecate for him.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Backseat Drivers

The Boss does not take kindly to it when Topher* shatters her "ignore him and he'll go away" mindset with his newborn wail. The scene most often unfolds in the car, where seatbelts, five point harnesses, and the fact that I am driving separate me indefinitely from the two prisoners in the backseat. The acceleration in my sporty little v-6 has nothing on The Boss, whose mental deterioration can go from 0-60 in five seconds whenever she hears him cry.

"Mommy, he needs you! HE NEEDS YOU!" Her scream is a rain of spit as she joins in with him--all red-faced, wet and puffy--until their joint clamor builds to a crescendo that will one day either make me drive off the road or wish that I had. Either kid crying alone is tolerable to a hardened mother like myself, but the two of them together in hysterics is an invitation for me to let loose right along with them.

I don't know what it is about Topher's baby yelps that tears his sister up. She won't acknowledge his existence in any other circumstance. He is six weeks old and I still haven't been able to get a picture of the two of them touching. Is it the idea of his discomfort that upsets her? Or are her ears, which have become so accustomed to the quietude of being an only child, just that sensitive to her brother's new noise?

I don't know. I ask her, but she's too frenzied to be coherent. She couldn't tell me anyway. That's actually what she says when she doesn't know the answer to something: "I can't tell you, mom." Her tone is almost always frustrated when she says it.

Since there's not much I can do from the front, I push all the questions and uncertainty into the backseat with my two screaming offspring. I try to drown them out with classical music and the loud exhale of the air conditioner, which is now blasting to counteract the humidity.

And we drive each other crazy, all the way home.

*The polls are still open. Vote on the baby's new blog pseudonym in the box on my sidebar if you haven't already.


Friday, June 06, 2008

On Yams and Strippers

In honor of the bachelor party The Partner is currently attending, I am re-posting a She Said/He Said written upon his return from a previous weekend of debauchery. It's two years old, but it is still relevant today. Frighteningly so.


SHE SAID: My husband came home from the Vegas bachelor party determined to put up a strong front. We went to a Memorial Day party on Monday; he went to work and then to play pool on Tuesday; and it wasn't until Wednesday that he finally called in sick to the office. Or, more accurately, he emailed his employers that he would work from home "in between naps." I ran to the nearest Internet portal and looked up the incubation period for the ten most common STDs.

HE SAID: My wife doesn't trust me worth a darn. She is still convinced I got some at my bachelor party. I probably should have. At least then, I'd have the bragging rights to go along with the blame. Believe it or not, a bachelor party can be fun without the swapping of bodily fluids. Other wholesome activities include watching strippers, gambling, drinking until you puke on a stripper, trashing hotel rooms, and discussing Tolstoy with strippers who are just doing it to pay for college.

SHE SAID: He forgot "burying your face in a stripper's cleavage at 20 bucks a pop." I would be interested to know how many lap dances it took to secure his party's place in the VIP lounge. Not that I would take his initial offer at face value. I know how it goes. It's like me with my iced coffee addiction. If he comes home from work and asks me if I went to Dunkin Donuts that day, I'll give him an honest yes or no answer. But if it's Friday and he poses the How many times did you go to Dunkin Donuts this week? question, I'm not above fudging the numbers.

HE SAID: Good thing I get the credit card statements. Her "lies" can only deceive me for so long. Here's an interesting tidbit about strippers. The girls in Vegas can make upwards of $200k/year for putting a knee in your lap. This one girl in particular wasn't even really hot yet she lives in San Francisco and commutes to Vegas. I guess the lack of health care and retirement benefits could be an issue, but regardless, that's not a bad gig. Here's my addition to the bachelor party stories: There was one girl whose gimmick was "talking dirty." Not talking dirty as most people know it. Instead, she went up to guys with lines like, "Who's going to let me pee on them next?" or grabbing a guy from behind and whispering, "I want to shove a yam up your ass." Maybe it works for some dudes, but she didn't exactly have me throwing money at her. At the very least, choose a vegetable that people will recognize. A yam? Seriously.

SHE SAID: It's impossible to get a straight answer out of him. Why regurgitate the truth when you can be lighthearted about legumes? Fortunately for him (though I don't know if it's fortunate or unfortunate for me) I like laughter almost as much as I hate deception. When he's really going good, I can be sidetracked indefinitely. I'm sure he loves this about me. What he doesn't relish so much is another personality quirk that plays into this discussion. I often say inappropriate things. And my timing? It's not so good. So my husband has the valid fear that, were he to divulge any secrets from the bachelor party, it would come back to bite him over champagne and chicken Francaise at the wedding of the man whose bachelorhood was so ceremoniously discontinued at the Las Vegas weekend in question.

HE SAID: See? She's already blabbing about this all over the internet. His fiancée is going to read this and wonder what sort of stories Binky might be referring to. I should have never have even admitted to going to Vegas. Fortunately, by now, most of my friends have learned to expect a scene whenever she's involved. Like the time at a dinner party when she brought up the anal sex escapades of the host and his high school girlfriend. In front of that guy's current fiancée. Yeah, that went over really well with the significant other. I'm surprised we still get invited anywhere.

SHE SAID: Go stick a yam up your ass

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cast Your Vote - Name the New Guy

The blog lines are now open! Head over to my sidebar (below the fold) to cast your vote in the Name the New Guy contest.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a name in Round One. The field has been whittled down to five finalists. Go vote now! Don't let your favorite business-world-inspired bloggy pseudonym go home.


Monday, June 02, 2008

The Boss Grows Into Her Role

The Boss at 4 days old

When I wasn't looking--maybe it was while I was busy transitioning Topher from womb to delivery room--The Boss turned solid and grew long legs.

She's been a baby her whole life. That's only two years and ten months, but it's what I'm accustomed to. She started out small--a round repository of fat cells beneath pale skin--and grew so stealthily that I failed to notice when muscle moved in and her face colored with the blush of ideas. Until her brother came along in comparison, I couldn't see how much she'd grown.
The other day, I was folding a mass of laundry that had been piling up in the wake of Topher's arrival and subsequent hospitalization. After stacking romper after romper, onesie after onesie, I pulled a pair of The Boss's pants from the bin. The jean material seemed voluminous. I looked at the tag. They were 2T, a size that I knew--conceptually, anyway--was actually a bit too small for her. Emotionally, I still didn't get it. As I put them aside to be packed away with all the other outfits-turned-artifacts, I puzzled over the discrepancy.

When did she grow into them?

And just when did she grow out?

The Boss 4 days ago