Monday, March 30, 2009

Smoke Through a Keyhole

The Partner was home all day with no big plans to fix all that was failing around him. We ate breakfast first, which he cleared as I nursed Number Two. Then the baby napped. The Partner and The Boss played a board game. I shut the door on them all and ran a bath.

Later we watched home movies of The Boss when she was the age Number Two is now. I had no recollection. Was she really ever so tiny? I looked down to where she sat, nestled in my arm on the love seat, and I found it hard to see her as anything other than what she was at that very moment. The past, though vivid on the screen, was faded; the future, a blur. I patted the solid bend of her leg next to mine.

Then we were diverted to a flea market, where we bought a camping chair for $2. At home again, I cleaned up breakfast pans I'd left sitting. The Partner kissed my neck from behind me. The Boss watched a movie. Number Two played in a pen of primary colors.

The Boss's bath came before dinner. I lined up foam letters in short word formation on the wall of the tub. I held my breath as The Boss sounded out the first one.

"Puh-ah-duh. P-a-d. Pad!"

I screamed and clapped. I ran to get the Partner, who wore mechanics' overalls as he worked under my car in the garage. He followed me up the stairs to the bathroom.

"You've got to see this." I arranged three more letters in front of The Boss, who was splashing slap-happy as the center of attention. "She can read! She can really read!"

She studied the word. "Buh..."

The Partner and I stared down, nodding her on. My eyebrows were high in my forehead. I still wasn't breathing. "Yes?" I sucked in air, prodding.

"Buh...ah...guh. B-a-g. Bag!" The Boss fell forward like a seal, splashing water over the side of the tub, sending the letters sailing away. We were all spastic.

At the end of the night, after the dishwasher had been loaded and the kids' beds filled, The Partner and I sat down to a movie. I don't like to be sad on purpose, but I suggested The Bucket List anyway, thinking that an uplift would prevail. And it did. We've never been immune to schmaltz. Toward the end I cried so hard that my face hurt where the tears clogged my sinuses.

"It was the little girl that got me," The Partner said. She was the new found granddaughter Jack Nicholson kissed on the cheek; she was the most beautiful girl in the world. "I can't see a little blond and not think of our own adorable kid." His eyes were puffy. He sighed beneath the weight of pride. That breath propelled him into the star-struck addendum that follows almost any mention of The Boss: "She's the best." It takes a little more air away each time. "The best."

You won't hear me deny it. I've said it right here. We'll never be immune to schmaltz.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Boss Needs a New Pair of Shoes

The Boss has been down to one pair of shoes--snow boots, actually--for more than a month. Since the freezing New England temperatures hadn't done anything to contraindicate the use of fur-lined vinyl over plastic soles, I was not motivated to purchase alternate footwear when I first realized she had outgrown every other pair of shoes she owned.

Things changed yesterday. It was at the track behind the elementary school that she found herself left in the dust (let's be honest here--it was mud; I mean, the boots weren't totally unjustified) when the two boys she was playing with took off running. She couldn't keep up. She could only clomp. Then she could only slump. Then she could only sit there, kicking a sad sole into the dirt as her hair hung in front of her face.

My girl knows how to hang with the big boys. What stopped her from matching their stride this time was my bad planning and my inability to accept the ferocious pace at which young feet bust out of whatever tries to hold them in. I got down on the ground beside her and promised I'd take her for new sneakers as soon as possible.

Soon was today; possible was the mall. She found princess sneakers with lights that flashed in the rubber with each footfall. They were on clearance. I bought them. She insisted on holding the bag. We were on our way to the elevator when she saw a mannequin sporting bright pajamas on a pedestal ahead. "Look mom!" She shouted. "Look at that role model!"

She was running in front of me, the plastic sack smacking her thigh as her still-booted feet threatened to trip her up. She was enchanted by the smooth facelessness of the dummy. I half-grinned at her malapropism and half-cringed at her gait.

One thing was certain: if she fell flat on her face, it would be MY fault, not that of the role model she was looking up to.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not Just a Spoke in My Menstrual Cycle

The second half of any given 28-day span will find me with the hormonal urge to do nothing but watch HGTV and read crime fiction. I am more content to think than do. I don't plan ahead and I don't create. I'm a slave to the whims of estrogen.

I envy men their even keel. My husband's brain chemistry is simple and safe. In my head, on the other hand, it feels as if a middle school student with poor grades is conducting a never ending science experiment. It's all Bunsen burners and volatile solutions and things that go BOOM.

I'm menstrually manic. I fly high for the first half of the month; I creep below the radar for the second. More than childbirth or having to pee sitting down, it's these moods that make me wax bitter about being a women.

If I didn't have a history of breast cancer in the family, I'd pop a pill to regulate those hormones faster than you could say YAZ®. Instead, I let nature take its course.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Picture Day

I bent into low balance on the balls of my feet as I hugged The Boss. "Have a great day," I said to the space between ear and cheek, then I kissed her there for good measure. "Don't forget to give your school picture form to your teacher."

Even as I gave that parting message, I wasn't much concerned about my daughter's follow-through. Maybe she'd remember, maybe she wouldn't. She's three years old. Things have a way of working out whether one makes a formal declaration as to the presence of a $22 check in one's backpack or not.

The Boss turned away from me and walked toward the end of the hall, where her head teacher waited in greeting. Per classroom custom, The Boss extended her hand and the teacher shook it.

"Wait, I have something for you," The Boss said, bending with purpose over her kangaroo backback and pulling a folded sheet of paper from the pouch. Her confidence belied her age as she handed the paper to the teacher.

"Thank you," said Miss Kathy.

"Thanks!" chirped The Boss.

I had been watching the exchange from the foyer door. That girl in the quilted botton-down coat made me marvel. There seemed to be nothing of me in her--not the forgetfulness, not the social distance, not the awkward manners. Her teacher smiled down at her and then looked over at me with a wink of amusement at The Boss's grace and courtesy.

I acknowledged Miss Kathy with a shake of my head. In the smile and the sigh, I meant to say I don't know where she gets it, and, in the incredulity, she is a person all her own.

Monday, March 16, 2009

These Precious Moments

It was Wacky Hat Friday at the Catholic school in which I was a kindergartener. I wore a party hat--the cone-shaped kind with the annoying elastic digging into my chin--that my mother had covered with orange felt and decorated with construction paper dots. Bobbling atop the hat was a star on a coil. The class lurched into the auditorium for an assembly that I can only imagine was the culmination of yet another fundraiser.

A raffle was taking place onstage. I remember nothing of the offerings except for two Precious Moments baby dolls. They had blond hair and huge eyes. They were huggable-soft. I held my raffle ticket in a hand that shook to the beat of my thumping heart. At five years old, I'd never wanted anything so badly.

I didn't win, of course. The difference between then and now is that I actually thought I would. I probably cried. I'm sure I was sad all day. It is what I remember as my first disappointment.

Now I have a three year old daughter and a real-life baby doll of my very own. And suddenly, in the memory of twenty-five years, I realize that the gratification I sought in those Jesus Loves Me dolls wasn't denied but delayed. That blond hair, those big eyes and the huggable-softness of a gurgling core.

I can't believe it. I finally won something.

Photo by Lauren

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Bright Spot in Children's Night Lights: Sylvania PalPODzzz

There are some things a night light can do, and some things it just might. The list for The Boss's new Sylvania PalPODzzz™ Portable Nightlight looks something like this:


Light a dark room with a soft LED glow when the ladybug is docked on its pod. It automatically brightens as the room darkens.

Illuminate a path with a rechargeable LED flashlight beam when the ladybug is removed from its pod.

Act as a backup light during power outages.

Look really cute while it's performing the above functions (note: the photo does not do it justice).

Ladybug model


Help you potty train your child through the night. I had high hopes that the novelty of the fun little ladybug flashlight would lure The Boss out of the comfort of her bed and onto the potty, but it didn't happen. It turns out, however, that there is a rational basis to my wishful thinking , and it's been supported by Surrender Dorothy's experience. The PalPODzzz just may work as a night-training aid for your child, too.

Rocket ship model

Enter to win! The Parent Bloggers Network is hosting a blog blast! Write a post on your blog about your kids’ excuses for getting out of bedtime, and win a gift pack of super Sylvania products valued at $200! Visit the Parent Bloggers Network for more details.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Muse Macabre

Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses came on the cable screen the night my then-soon-to-be husband celebrated his bachelor party in Montreal. I was home alone, a fat goblet of wine threatening to overflow onto the coffee table in front of me as I chain smoked out the window with clandestine vigor. The fingers of my lift hand released their weak grip on the remote control and it fell to my side. I watched the whole horror show.

Triumph of Death c. 1562 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

I have a confused fascination with the macabre. Sometimes I can't look away and sometimes I can't look. There's a canvas print of the Triumph of Death hanging on my living room wall; I asked for and received part of Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights for Christmas. The final painting in the room is a thrift shop find of a statue coming to life as decapitated heads watch with eyes and maws agape. I'm not sure most people notice. I know I generally don't.

I want to write a novel that is gothic and contemporary. Place is character. A house, maybe, where people have no choice but to notice the freaky paintings on the wall.

I can get there if I stop looking away.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Two Days in the Life

Yesterday I left wet laundry in the washing machine. Today the whole load smells like a SweeTart.

Yesterday I agreed to be a speaker at a meeting about emotional support for birthing mothers. Today I tell myself I'll come up with my talking points tomorrow.

Yesterday I sat in our green, micro suede love seat while I fed Number Two. I looked down at him between pages of the book I was reading and thought "I need to just watch him, I need to slow down." He slurped a contented tempo. Today I sit in the same love seat, falling into a pillow, still trying to match his pace.

Yesterday I found a stash of saved emails and a journal from my college days. The Partner spent two hours reading through my angst, which was all about him. He thought it was funny and sweet. Today is just like yesterday; it's nothing like ten years ago.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Times are Tough

Today I interviewed The Boss about her perceptions of me in the hope of eliciting some blog fodder. It worked for Toyfoto when she turned her reporter's notebook on her daughter, Annabel.

I did not have similar success.

The long list of questions included ones like this, "what do you do that makes your mom happy?" (her answer: not doing something bad) and this, "what do you do that makes your mom sad?" (her answer: doing something bad).

I almost threw in the towel completely when she cited "vegetables" as my favorite food. The exercise was shaping up to be a bust.

I didn't know that The Partner was listening from his home workstation in the corner of the kitchen until question #13 came up.

"What's your mom's job?" I asked The Boss.

"Cleaning the house," she replied.

I made a self-conscious little tee-hee at my daughter's gross misperception as the background click of the computer keyboard ceased beneath The Partner's fingers. There was glee in the gloat that emanated from the other room:

"You're fired!"